B100mn of gold, silver flushed down Switzerland's toilets annually

12 October, 2017, 14:09 | Author: Leticia Walters
  • In Switzerland they just throw this stuff away

Millions of dollars worth of gold and silver are flushed away in Switzerland each year, a new study has found.

"The levels of gold or silver were very small, in the micrograms, or even nanograms, but when you add them up it's pretty substantial".

Their discovery is the latest example of wealthy Switzerland finding riches in unusual places.

In some sites, like Ticino, researchers say the concentrations of gold in the sewage sludge are "sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile". "This can be attributed to the presence of several gold refineries in the region", the EAWAG said in a statement. "While the ultimate fate of the various elements has been little studied to date, a large proportion is known to enter wastewater".

The report says the study focused primarily on the fluxes and mass balances, rather than recovery value.

However, besides for gold, the report shows, the Swiss sewage becomes more and more crowded as the years go by, because annually almost 3.000 kilograms of silver are being thrown away. Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) estimated that around 43 kg of gold and 3,000 kg of silver, as well as several other elements end up in wastewater annually. It's also reported that about 70 per cent of the world's gold is refined in the country every year.

There isn't enough wasted metal in the system to pose an environmental risk, but there is enough to make spelunking through Switzerland's underground waterways seem like a worthwhile use of time.

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