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12 October 2017, 12:32 | Erica Roy
David Paul Morris Getty Images Scientists have struck gold in an unlikely place Swiss sewage and waste water treatment plants
Millions of dollars worth of gold and silver are flushed away in Switzerland each year, a new study has found. 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. Swiss refineries process about 70 percent of the world's gold.
Moreover, the same research team discovered that in this particular area where most manufacturers established their headquarters and shops, the amount of gold was so significant, they could collect it. In the southern Ticino region of Switzerland, home to many of its refineries, the "concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile", the scientists said. "For example, the total aluminum and copper fluxes are equivalent, respectively, to only 0.2 and just under four per cent of annual Swiss imports".
Researchers sample the wastewater at Werdhölzli treatment plant in Zurich.
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