The process of reclaiming compounds and elements from products, buildings and waste. - via urbanmining.org
To explain that better let's take a look at an example of where urban mining applies well: rare earth metals.
Rare earth metals are important elements in producing goods that people want, especially various types of electronics. Among these are batteries, x-rays, solar panels and lasers.
However, there are challenges to obtaining the large quantities of rare earth metals that are required to fulfill an ever-growing demand such electronics. What kind of obstacles?
Although not as rare as the name would suggest, mining these rare earth metals from the the earth can, ironically, be very detrimental to the environment. So the demand for these metals and the consequences of massive mining is a balancing act. China currently has the majority of rare earth metals and limits exports.
As the push for green technology continues, the challenge of obtaining rare earth metals without becoming an environmental problem itself will force creative solutions. Urban mining is one of them.
As it pertains to information technology, it's really where product life cycle management meets the need for wise utilization of resources.
The electronics people often throw away are a viable source of rare earth metals, and these electronics are all over cities across the planet. So, people are now using urban mining as a means of collecting electronic waste and reclaiming the rare earth metals from these unwanted electronics.
As you can see, urban mining is applying resourceful thinking to obtain in-demand elements and compounds from what exists around us. It's a long existing idea with a new and creative application. Urban mining seems to be promising and certainly has its uses in the world of electronic waste and information technology.
If you'd like to learn more about urban mining here are a few resources to get you started: