Why Recycled Gold is not a Solution
The origin and impact of recycled gold
25 November, 2022 by
Why Recycled Gold is not a Solution
Desirée Binternagel

- The term recycled gold is used liberally. Gold that is sold as recycling-gold consists often of gold that could still be used in its previous form.

- The origin of recycled gold is not traceable. It has even been proven that gold from illegal sources ends up as so-called recycled gold on the European gold market.

- The more recycled gold is in demand, the higher the probability that it is not genuine scrap gold.

- The use of recycled gold does not result in less gold being mined or improved conditions for miners.

- Recycled gold is not a particularly environmentally friendly alternative to mined gold, and it is not more carbon-neutral in processing because the separation process consumes the same amount of energy.

Old Becomes New

Gold has always been valuable to people and has been recycled for hundreds of years.

This means more precisely that it is purchased in the form of bars, coins or gold-bearing objects, which also include jewelry or dental gold, processed in a refinery and resold again as fine gold from recycling.

The Most Important Questions About the Use of Recycled Gold

  1. Is recycled gold really recycled?
  2. Where and under which circumstances was recycled gold mined?
  3. Is recycled gold climate neutral and environmentally friendly?
  4. Has recycled gold a social impact?
  5. Is less gold being mined due to the recycling of gold?

Definition [RECYCLING]

Recycling refers to the reuse of materials that no longer have any use or have reached the end of their useful life. A good example are empty and used glass bottles, which are collected in containers and reprocessed into new bottles. The motivation is to save raw materials and avoid additional waste in order to protect the environment. We are talking here about so-called post-consumer waste.

1. Is Recycled Gold Really Recycled?

In the meantime, the term recycling is used generously. Even the further processing of production residues is often already referred to as recycling. Let's compare this with baking cookies: The dough is rolled out and cookies are cut out. The remaining dough scraps are kneaded again and rolled out to form new cookies. No one would probably think to call this recycling. This so-called post-industrial waste is of course reprocessed for pragmatic reasons.

 Recycling vs. Recycled Gold


  • Materials that are no longer used in their current form.
  • Products which have reached the end of their life-span.


  • Goldbars, coins
  • Production residues
  • Jewelry
  • Electronical Waste, Dental gold, etc.

Recycled gold consists mainly of gold that could well be used in its previous form. Gold bars, coins and jewelry products are purchased and transformed into new gold products by refiners and production facilities. These are then advertised as being ethically unobjectionable, environmentally friendly and climate-neutral.

2. Where and Under Which Circumstances Was Recycled Gold Mined?

Most dealers or refiners do not specify the origin of recycled gold.

In order to act in an environmentally conscious and socially responsible way, when buying recycled gold, it should be ensured that it is really scrap gold from electronic scrap or old jewelry. Unfortunately, there are cases where gold from illegal sources enters the regular precious metal trade and is resold as so-called recycled gold. This often happens via the international gold trade in the Arab Emirates.


A study by the Swiss non-profit organization SWISSAID, from 2020, proves that a large part of the gold sold to Germany via Switzerland as recycled gold comes from the United Arab Emirates. Controls in Dubai regarding the origin of purchased gold are demonstrably inadequate.

For example, when gold is imported from the Congo, with transfer in France, France is considered the country of origin.

The conclusion of the study: Illegal gold from conflict areas ends up in the international gold trade without any problems.

3. Is Recycled Gold Climate Neutral and Environmentally Friendly?

Recycled gold is often described as particularly environmentally friendly because no new gold is mined for it. What is forgotten is the fact that the gold definitely was mined at an earlier stage, but it is not known how this mining took place. Therefore, it is also unknown whether it was done in an ecologically and socially responsible way.

Another common argument for the use of recycling-gold is that it is more climate neutral because there are no long transport distances involved when scrap gold is reprocessed locally in refineries. Here it also must be considered that the purchased scrap gold, which is used for the production of recycled gold, has the same transport routes behind it as newly mined gold, only the timing might differ.

The technical processes in refineries have a very high energy consumption and there is no difference between the refining of gold from mining to the refining of scrap gold. In both processes, the gold is refined using the same energy to achieve an almost 100 percent purity of gold.

4. Has Recycled Gold a Social Impact?

As a rule, the use of recycled gold has no social impact. On the contrary, the lives of the many millions of miners are adversely affected because the prices for recycled gold are lower than the regular price for mined gold. If more and more people prefer to use recycled gold, this creates high price pressure, which leads to small-scale miners in many places receiving too little pay for their work. The gold enters the regular gold market through illegal channels in order to be sold as the recycled gold that is currently in demand.

Another aspect that must be taken into account is the fact that when recycled gold is used, the way in which gold is mined is no longer taken into account. Thus, the world turns a blind eye to the conditions in illegal mining and no perspective of improvement is offered to the people dependant on mining.

5. Is less Gold Being Mined Due to the Recycling of Gold?

The demand for gold continues to increase every year, but it is difficult to bring more scrap gold into circulation because the gold is in use or in storage. Currently, delivered scrap gold covers only about 23% of the world's demand for gold. 

Gold mining has not yet been reduced in any way by the use of recycling-gold. In addition, as gold prices continue to rise, more and more low-income areas are beginning to mine gold, often under precarious conditions.

Our goal is to start at the very beginning of the supply chain, which is why we support the people in small-scale mining. With the option to choose gold from traceable and fair sources, the responsibility is ours.

Why Recycled Gold is not a Solution
Desirée Binternagel 25 November, 2022
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