Additional Precious Metals Can Be Recovered

LCD-77-228: Published: Dec 28, 1977. Publicly Released: Dec 28, 1977.

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The federal government is a large user of items containing gold and silver. In fiscal year (FY) 1976, federal agencies recovered $20.2 million in gold and silver from materials used in day-to-day operations. Additional gold and silver estimated at $15.6 million could have been recovered. Demonstration projects have shown that the Department of Defense (DOD) can identify, segregate, and sort gold and silver items in electronic scrap and reclaim them economically. DOD is the largest recoverer of gold. Silver is used more extensively than gold; photographic and x-ray film contains silver, and film is used by all agencies.

DOD recovers very little gold and silver from electronic scrap even though it has demonstrated that recovery is economically feasible. Instead, it continues to study the feasibility of such recovery and is selling items with gold and silver at scrap prices. Recovery from scrap in FY 1976 could have yielded an estimated additional $11.6 million. Twenty-six federal agencies recovered only 36 percent of the recoverable silver from photographic solutions. The other 64 percent, valued at an estimated $4 million, was not recovered because some agencies do not have recovery programs and others are recovering less silver than they should. Federal agencies have not diligently managed recovery programs.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Defense Logistics Agency to take the actions necessary to segregate precious-metal-bearing electronic scrap, accumulate it at selected locations, and extract the available gold and silver. The Administrator, GSA, should require all agencies to immediately, and annually thereafter, survey their components to identify those using fixer and its estimated silver content. The Administrator should initially require these agencies to report semiannually to GSA on specified types of information and should follow up with these organizations to determine reasons why the agencies are not recovering the maximum amount of silver and the actions planned for doing so.

    Agency Affected:


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