Recycled Silver - Now Available!
by Tawny Reynolds on Jan 04, 2010
...Well, some recycled silver is available.
Our primary supplier of jewelry findings, Rio Grande, now sells recycled silver wire in all three gauges we use.
After much estimating, calculation, and conversion (thank you to my high school chemistry teacher for stoichiometry!), I determined that of the 15% (by weight) of a pair of carded earrings that is silver, 0.24 grams is silver wire. The other 0.3 grams is the ear hooks, which unfortunately are not yet available recycled.
Erin's original post on the impact of un-recycled silver found that silver uses three times as much energy (BTU's) and emits five times as much CO2 as glass. And that's without getting into mining's environmental impacts aside from energy.
I wasn't able to find any hard numbers on the energy and emissions associated with recycling silver, and the information I did find was mostly discussing silver-oxide batteries and photographic chemicals, which I would bet require more work to recycle than our sterling silver wire scraps.
However, there is actual data available for recycling aluminum, most of which (food cans) is basically just melted down and re-formed into new cans. The process of recycling aluminum scrap emits only 5% of the CO2 and uses 5% of the energy necessary to extract and refine virgin material. For now, I will assume recycling silver scrap is similar.
While using recycled silver wire almost cuts our energy use and emissions for silver in half, it would make an even bigger difference if we could use recycled ear hooks. Using both - well that would just be ridiculous. :)
Update July 15, 2015: Finally recycled silver ear hooks are available as well as recycled silver wire - and we're using them!