October 5, 2017 6:23 AM EDT

Japanese company Mitsubishi plans to invest about $108 million to expand operations to sift through discarded computers, cell phones and other electronic devices to recycle rare metals such as gold and palladium as global supplies dwindle. Here’s what to know.


Metal producers are turning to recycling urban waste because of conventional mining’s high price tag. Currently 700,000 tons of recycled metals are traded a year, set to rise to 1.1 million within a decade.


More valuable metals can be recycled from e-waste in a landfill than can be found in an average mine. The amount of gold in a single ton of printed circuit boards is the same as in 100 tons of gold ore.


Japan is leading the way in this kind of recycling. Last February organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics said the Games’ bronze, silver and gold medals will be forged from recycled urban waste.

This appears in the October 16, 2017 issue of TIME.

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