Maybe you've heard of the term “urban mining” and wondered what it actually means? You can find out what the Eiffel Tower and your smartphone have to do with it in this blog article!

The term urban mining originally comes from the urban construction industry and refers to urban mining. A lot of raw materials, so-called secondary raw materials, are used in buildings in large cities. These can still be used later if the building is demolished. Urban mining is therefore originally about recycling these raw materials.

Construction site where urban mining is carried out

Just as the industry can produce new packaging from recycled paper, construction waste and general technical scrap can also be recycled. Namely all the materials that are inside.

For example, if a house is torn down, many metals such as copper or iron can be extracted from the old water pipes and power cables by melting them down.

How do we as Schmuchkabel use urban mining?

For us, acting sustainably means using what is already there - instead of mining limited resources. This is exactly the idea behind the term urban mining - originally from urban mining, now also at Dear Darling Berlin.

For us as a jewelry label, we mean the recovery of gold from old electronic devices, old gold and other sources. Our real gold jewelry, for example, is made from this.

Goldschmied recycles gold in urban mining

Even if one might assume that we Germans are already quite good at recycling electrical devices, the numbers tell a different story: currently only around 15% of electronic waste is recycled!

The reason for this is that the older methods of recovering gold are expensive and usually use a lot of CO2. But there are modern methods that can significantly reduce CO2 emissions. For example, old computer parts cannot be completely melted down, only the gold can be extracted using microbes. That saves time and money.

In short: the earth's natural reserves of raw materials are being continually reduced through continuous mining and consumption. At the same time, however, the amount of secondary raw materials is growing, such as gold and silver from existing pieces of jewelry or materials containing precious metals - precious materials are even found in cell phones, laptops and tablets. We make use of these secondary raw materials and create our timeless pieces of jewelry from reprocessed, recycled silver and gold.

And the nice thing about it: The quality of sustainable silver and gold is no different from conventional precious metals. However, reprocessing existing materials is much more environmentally friendly. In addition, no one has to work in dangerous mines under poor conditions for people and the environment.

The dark side of gold mining

But what is actually the reason why urban mining is so important for us as a jewelry label? Quite simply: mining gold is extremely time-consuming and is still characterized by many grievances for the workers in the mines. Child labor and working under difficult conditions are still part of everyday life here. Many families simply have no alternative and have to endure the backbreaking job every day.

Goldmine shows the dark side of gold mining

As a jewelry label, we also want to use our voice and make our customers aware of the injustices that still exist.

The demand for gold is still increasing. There are currently around 200,000 tonnes of gold in circulation. And more than ⅔ were only mined after 1950. The trend of gold mining is still increasing. Between 3,000 and 3,500 tons of gold are still mined every year. For comparison: the Eiffel Tower in Paris weighs around 1,000 tons. So three and a half golden Eiffel Towers every year.

Another dark side of gold mining is the way nature is destroyed in the process. Because gold is mined using explosives. In addition, forests are cleared and rivers are dammed just to create new sources.

Here are a few more facts that show how dirty gold mining can be:

  • 70% of the gold that is currently processed comes from conventional sources such as the classic gold mine
  • One of the 10 biggest environmental problems in the world is non-industrial gold mining
  • 30 million people around the world work in the gold mines every day
  • Of these, around 1 million are children
  • The rainforest also burns to free up more areas for gold mining

General benefits of urban mining

Urban mining has not yet received the public attention it actually deserves - although it brings with it many advantages that perfectly fit the current challenges of our generation. Here are the most important advantages:

  • Lower energy costs: With modern technologies, much less energy is required to extract 1g of gold through urban mining than when it is traditionally mined in a gold mine
  • No toxic chemicals such as cyanide or mercury are used, as is still standard in gold mining today
  • No one (especially children) has to work in terrible working conditions in mines anymore
  • No new raw materials need to be obtained because sufficient resources are already in circulation.
  • There are no delivery problems - also a very current problem!
  • Urban mining is more cost-effective for companies because raw material prices are currently rising faster than one can say “expensive”.
  • Something new and beautiful can be created from something old and broken
  • The environmental impact is extremely reduced through urban mining. The recycling of industrial waste alone has saved over 50 million tons of carbon dioxide in the last 25 years.
  • By using existing resources, companies become independent of rising raw material prices. A topic that is more relevant than ever.

Benefits for the entire jewelry industry

Gold is one of the most valuable and sought-after materials in the world. But also a limited resource. Conventional gold mining does not cast a particularly glamorous image on this beautiful treasure of the earth because it is characterized by poor working conditions, child labor and environmental damage caused by the toxic substances used for mining.

For us, the advantages of recycled gold are clear:

1) Gold can be recovered infinitely with almost no loss

2) there is already enough mined gold in the circuit

3) we love the idea of ​​giving something old a new lease of life

Get active!

Here's some good news: You can do something for a better, more sustainable circular economy and the protection of valuable raw materials and thus reduce your own carbon footprint.

Donate your smartphone

For example, a lot of gold can be extracted from old smartphones! You may also have an old cell phone at home that could be a real treasure of gold. On average, every person buys a new cell phone every 11 months. The result: a total of almost 1.4 billion cell phones are produced every year, which after a very short lifespan are stored in a cupboard or drawer or are improperly disposed of with household waste.

Here you will find a list of cell phone collection points where you can hand in your old smartphones.

Bring your old gold over

But that's not all: If you still have old pieces of gold jewelry that you no longer wear and are just gathering dust in the closet, you can reuse them too. Simply hand it in at one of the following scrap gold collection points:

When buying, pay attention to the origin of the gold

We attach great importance to transparency and sustainability in our jewelry production. We work with local partners from Germany, Italy and Spain who use recycled real gold and sterling silver for our jewelry, which is sourced directly from local refineries.

A refinery is, so to speak, a “recycling company” that specializes in the recovery of metals. The various old materials, such as industrial or electronic scrap, old pieces of jewelry, coins, cutlery and other remaining stocks containing precious metals, are separated into their individual components, i.e. "divorced". These raw materials are then brought back into the cycle and used for our jewelry.

Sources (as of August 17, 2022)