Reducing the U.S.’ reliance on importing high value materials for consumer electronics, such as gold and other high value materials, could rely on emerging technologies making electronics recycling easier.

“Precious metals and rare earth metals are the economic driving force for consumer electronic recycling technology,” a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report said. “These metals have high market values and limited supplies, and they can be reused across many industries, including the defense and energy sectors. Consumer electronic devices can also contain personally identifiable information (PII), including medical and financial data, which could be improperly disclosed if they are not destroyed prior to recycling.”

Emerging technologies for recycling high value materials— such as robotic disassembly uses both machine learning and computer vision, while other technologies use ultrasound—is providing both opportunities and challenges, the report stated.

The opportunities include increasing supply and reducing imports of high value materials, growing the green economy, reducing hazardous practices, and lessening environmental impacts. However, it is not without challenges, the report said.

The market for recovered materials is limited, fully securing the destruction of personal information, counterfeit electronic parts could disrupt parts of the Defense Department supply chain, and rapid technological development causing even more new recycling technologies to be developed all present challenges to making consumer electronics recycling easier.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.