The Swiss sewage system is literally a gold mine

The Swiss sewage system is literally a gold mine

The Swiss sewage system is literally a gold mine

Swiss scientists have found that 43kg of gold worth about $1.8 million is passing through Switzerland's wastewater each year, as first spotted by Bloomberg. The concentrations measured do not pose risks to the environment - and recycling would not be economically worthwhile. While the ultimate fate of the various elements has been little studied to date, a large proportion is known to enter wastewater.

This isn't the first time major metals have been detected in sewage sludge.

A national research institute took samples from pipelines and water treatment plants, and concluded that the Swiss are throwing 40 kilograms of gold annually.

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At certain sites such as Ticino, where several gold refineries are present, the concentration of the yellow metal in the sewage sludge is high enough for the recovery to be "potentially worthwhile", said a press release published by Eawag scientists on October 10.

The study, commissioned by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, involved surveys of 64 waste water treatment plants across the country.

"Trace elements are increasingly widely used in the high-tech and medical sectors - for example, the transition metal tantalum and the semimetal germanium in electronic components, niobium and titanium in alloys and coatings, or gadolinium as a contrast medium and in luminous paints", the study said. But for the most part, scientists say the metals would not be worth recovering.

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Switzerland seems like a lovely place to live: snowy mountain peaks to ski, lakeside cities to explore, and 43 kilograms of gold flowing through the sewers that no one seems all that anxious about.

The Swiss waste water processes an estimated 6,500 pounds of silver each year - which translates to about $1.8 million, CNN Money points out.

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