Swiss flushing away millions in gold and silver every year

Andrew Cummings
October 12, 2017

So much of the world's gold and silver passes through Switzerland to be refined yearly that an estimated value of over B100mn regularly gets flushed into their sewage system, Swiss researchers revealed in a report on Tuesday (Oct 10).

Every year, about 95 pounds of gold and 6,600 pounds of silver are wasted, scientists said, adding that the annual totals were "quite substantial".

That's over $2.25 million in gold and $2.12 million in silver, researchers report.

Higher levels of gold were found in the western Swiss region of Jura, believed to be linked to watchmakers that use the precious metal to decorate their expensive timepieces.

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

"Overall, however, according to the researchers, the recovery of metals from wastewater or sludge is scarcely worthwhile at present, either financially or in terms of the amounts which could be extracted", the report says.

The Eawag researchers studied 64 water treatment plants across the nation and concluded that the metals found in Swiss sewers do not pose a risk to the environment. Each year, about 70 percent of the world's gold passes through the oil refineries of the country. 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.

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

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