used with permission, KOLO8 ABC.
Reno, Nevada. Originally published
Nev. (KOLO) -- Dr. John Whitney says
he developed a process no one else
can re-create. His Reno-based
company named Itronics turns old
circuit boards into usable gold,
silver and other precious metals.
The discovery started with a problem
that was killing fish in the Truckee
River. Developing pictures produces
photographic waste. The most toxic
substance is liquid silver. It was
dumped into the Truckee river before
Dr. Whitney's process pulls almost
all the silver from the photographic
liquid, neutralizing its harmful
effect on fish and the environment.
"It's a completely new process.
Never been done before," Dr. Whitney
Photographic waste comes from places
like Gordon's Photo Service near
Trader Joe's in Reno.
At one time the waste was stored
indefinitely in the ground or
diluted and released back into the
environment, but now Gordon's
Photography stores all the waste in
large drums. Itronics transports the
photographic waste to a facility in
north Reno, where the silver is
removed through a secret chemical
The silver is then added to a stew
of ground up circuit boards and
heated to at least 2,100 degrees for
up to 20 hours. The silver acts as a
sponge, pulling gold palladium,
copper and other precious metals
from the molten brew.
The molten mix is poured into a
cone-shaped mold, where the precious
metals sink to the bottom before
cooling into a hard glass-like rock.
It's turned upside-down and the
smallest tip is knocked off with a
hammer. What you get is called a
Four bullion pucks are remelted and
refined once again to produce a
shipping bar. It can be sold back
into the market. The metals could
very likely be turned into a watch
or ring at a jewelry store.
This process actually brings in less
than 10 percent of iTronic's
earnings. The bulk of the company's
economic power comes from what it
does with the photographic waste
after the toxic liquid silver is
Another secret process Dr. Whitney
developed transforms the remaining
photographic waste into fertilizer.
"The results are beyond Miracle
Grow. You'll get two to three times
the volume to tomatoes and other
vegetables," said Scott Terrell, who
uses the fertilizer with the brand
name of GOLD'n GRO. It's shipped by
the truckload more than 200 miles
southwest to this fertilizer dealer
in Vernalis, California.
Tom Lopez is the branch manager for
Crop Production Services. "It's
great. It's taking a waste product
and making a resource," he said.
GOLD'n GRO is mixed with other
fertilizers to give almond, wine
grape and walnut farmers in
California the exact nutrients their
fields need. "It gets good results;
that's the bottom line. They want
results," Lopez said.
Dr. Whitney says he will share the
process, but is waiting to find the
right partner. Until then, the
process will remain in northern
Itronics gets its circuit boards
from New-To-You Computers. People
and businesses donate their old
computers to the company. If a
computer can't be refurbished, it's
dismantled by one of 40 disabled
"I take things apart. I did the
fans. Take the fans out and then I
take the motherboards out," said
New-To-You Computers employee Allen
In the last 18 years, New-To-You
Computers processed 1.5 million
pounds of e-waste. Itronics started
picking up bins of circuit boards
about a year ago.
You can donate your old computer by
dropping it off at 50 Greg Street
#103 in Sparks.
You can also buy some of Dr.
Whitney's fertilizer. Just go to
Amazon.com and type in "GOLD'n GRO".
You must spell the product's name
just like it appears in the previous
sentence or the search will not lead
you to the product.