Do Old Digital Cameras Contain Precious Metals that Can Be Recycled?

The shelves of my local camera store are packed with digital cameras – both new cameras and older models that customers have traded in. I asked Paul, who owns the store, why he had so many used digital cameras for sale.

Ever wonder what’s inside of a digital camera?  The answer could be profits, if you recycle enough of them and the precious metals they contain. Credit: John de la Bastide, via Thinkstock/Getty Images

Ever wonder what’s inside of a digital camera?  The answer could be profits, if you recycle enough of them and the precious metals they contain. Credit: John de la Bastide, via Thinkstock/Getty Images

“It’s because lots of people trade in their old cameras as soon as they can get something with the latest technology,” he explained. “For example, more mid-range digital cameras are now offering resolution in the range of 20 megapixels and many of them can now beam pictures to a computer via Wi-Fi, without the need for a cable. I am not sure that people need those features, but they want them. And that, my friend, explains why I have so many used digital cameras in my store.”

Billions of Cameras Are Waiting to Be Recycled

Paul’s comments got me wondering how many cameras are now in the hands of photographers, waiting to be recycled. Hundreds of millions of digital cameras have been sold each year. That means that there are over a billion digital cameras waiting to be traded in or scrapped.

That thought led me to research how much money can be made by recycling cameras. Here are answers to questions about camera recycling.

Only digital cameras contain precious metals, right?

It would be tempting to believe that only digital cameras, not older film cameras, contain precious metals. But that is not entirely true. The last generations of film cameras embodied a lot of electronic features like auto-focusing, automatic exposure controls, motorized film advancing and rewinding, built-in flashes and sensors, and much more. All those components had circuit boards that contained small quantities of gold and silver. So the bottom line is that some old film cameras contain gold and silver that can be recycled by a qualified precious metals refinery.

What metals do digital cameras contain and where are they found?

Digital cameras are full of printed circuit boards that contain gold, silver, and also base metals like aluminum and copper. Although LCD display screens do not contain precious metals, the contact points along their edges can contain gold and silver.

What about camcorders?

Newer digital camcorders, like digital cameras, contain quantities of precious and other metals that can be recycled. Even older camcorders that used digital tape as a recording medium contain precious metals in their electronic circuitry. Don’t toss them, recycle them.

How about professional and high-end cameras?

Professional movie and still cameras – both digital and film - generally contain larger quantities of gold and silver than smaller consumer cameras do.

How much money can I get from recycling cameras?

The answer to that question is, it depends. Even the larger digital cameras are unlikely to contain much more than a few dollars’ worth of precious metals that can be recycled.

Yet as is the case with old cellphones and other electronic devices, quantity is everything. If you can acquire a lot of 400, 500 older digital cameras or more, recycling them becomes something to consider. When you consider that the average North American household probably has at least one older digital camera that is not being used any more, acquiring that many cameras doesn’t seem like too big a challenge. When you get that many, call, part of Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners, at 800-426-2344 to learn more about how to profitably reclaim the gold, silver and other metals that they contain.

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