Did you know that the secret power in your SIM card can make medicine cheaper? According to researchers at Imperial College London phone SIM cards can be recycled to potentially make medicines cheaper. With the majority of electronics ending up in a pile of e-waste landfill, this includes SIM cards too.
This e-waste is due to factors like cost management and process efficiency rather than technology to recycle it. In the US people pay the highest price of nearly $1,300 per year on medicines, this can be brought down if we encourage SIM recycling that targets the pharmaceutical industry.
SIM cards are coated with gold as it acts as an excellent conductor of electricity and resists corrosion damage over time compared to other metals like silver. Though the quantity of gold used is small and would take thousands of SIM cards to extract a few grams of gold.
The extraction of gold can be a costly affair, and the major hurdle in the extraction of gold is it’s complex and expensive.
Professors Angela Serpe and Paola Deplano at the University of Cagliari in Italy developed an easy method for recovering gold and other precious metals from electronics. Since gold is an excellent catalyst it can speed up the process of chemical reactions. This process relies on grinding, plastic stripping, and chemically treating the e-waste to recover gold in a compound form and is not as costly as the bling metal itself. The pure gold extracted at the end of the process also cannot be reused in electronic circuit boards. This is where the researchers from Imperial College London came up with a solution. James Wilton-Ely and Chris Braddock managed to use the recycled gold compound as a catalyst for pharmaceutical applications.During the multiple chemical reactions for making medicine, the researchers used the gold compound catalyst for making medicines such as pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs. The results were stunning as the gold compound performed better than the currently used catalysts.
The researchers in their paper also mentioned the gold compound derived from waste SIM cards could also be reused, further cutting down the cost. According to the research papers available in ACS Publications, “this is the first direct application in homogeneous catalysis of gold recovery products sourced from e-waste.”The low-impact process for obtaining gold as an efficient catalyst from discarded SIM cards and other waste electrical and electronic equipment is both more economical, and also far more environmentally sustainable, than commercial mining.
SIM Card to make Medicine Cheaper
The paper argues that even at small-scale production levels, the black crystalline solid form of the gold catalyst is more affordable and eco-friendly than traditional options currently used in the pharmaceutical industry. The chemical conversion producing the product can be carried out on relatively cheap starting materials, dramatically reducing the cost of production as well.
After being used as a catalyst during the process of synthesizing medicine and recovered with a simple chemical process, gold compounds are free of any organic impurities. To put it simply, they can be used for catalyzing medicine production processes up to eight times without any loss in their effectiveness.
We conclude that conventional gold catalysts can be substituted with “more sustainable and cheaper alternatives recovered from millions of metric tons of e-waste currently sent to landfill each year.” We believe that mass adoption could very well become a breakthrough in the pharmaceutical industry, potentially making medicines more affordable.
In a world where the White House had to intervene with an executive order to lower the price of prescription drugs due to out-of-control pharmaceutical companies, we need more innovations like this. A notable project that came from Kids Non-Profit Organization (KNPO) was recycling SIM cards as safety reflectors. The goal of this project is to prevent road accidents by using recycled SIM card reflectors.
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