I am comparing this with two standard methods. The first is the old standard incineration, grind, screen, melt, etc. The second is to process everything mechanically - grind it and separate it into its various fractions using some hand sorting and lots of equipment - magnetic separators, eddy current separators, etc. There are a few patents on this second method.
(1) - More labor and lots of equipment.
(2) - Much more fume control - hoods, scrubber, etc.
(3) - Much more waste to deal with - acid wastes mainly. For every ton of base metal dissolved, I would guess that you would generate at least 40 drums of acid waste.
(4) - Lower efficiency
(5) - Much higher chemical costs
(6) - Much slower process
Most anyone of you that has puttered around with these things know the above list is true.
I had been refining less than two years when I realized that e scrap was a waste of time unless it was done for sheer pleasure. The work involved to recover an ounce of gold is astronomical----making it very difficult to make a profit. As a result, I ran only that which came my way free of charge, and refused any from customers. The time and chemicals involved in extracting an ounce of gold would easily process 50 ounces of scrap karat gold. Why waste my time and resources?
As a hobby?
I'd be the last guy to say it's a waste of time.
I am a high school graduate, and just barely. I took no math classes in high school, and no chemistry classes. What I learned about refining has been very revealing, and, to say the least, profitable. My horizons were expanded in ways I can't begin to explain. I'd do it all over again, given the same circumstances, starting much earlier.
I would still avoid e scrap. Mind you, I'm speaking from the perspective of a guy that would make his living as a refiner. I reiterate----it is a wonderful hobby----it's just not well suited to making a profit unless the material can be run in the same fashion as the "big boys".
In the short time I've been collecting escrap and sorting and separating to process as I've read here on the forums it's obvious these two guys are spot on. The labor to process a ton of scrap would be off the chart. I do plan to recycle, reclaim and reuse everything possible (including copper) but escrap won't ever be more than a hobby. I get all the scrap for free so PPE "lab equipment" (mostly a one time expense) and chemicals are my only expense. It might be possible to recover enough PMs to pay for all of this and maybe if I'm smart AND lucky help finance my other hobbies... then again, maybe not.
One thing really concerns me though, incineration and halogenated flame retardants. I would guess the big guys incinerators and scrubbers take care of the "dioxins"? produced but I'm not so sure a backyard escapper would be eliminating this stuff. The safe level for this stuff was said by one of the "experts" to be zero (I've read a lot and not sure now who that was). I understand the dangers and safety precautions surrounding the chemicals and processes spoke of here but the plastics scare me more. One of the better pages I found:
If this ever was to be more than just a hobby I would expect it to arise from dealings with the local jewelers that I will sell any gold and silver to.
Sorry for bumping an old thread, it just happens to fit with what I'm researching right now and brought up that sick feeling in my gut about plastics. Be safe, have fun.