A few years ago, a jeweler brought the old carpeting from their workroom to our refinery. Everybody (especially the jeweler), was blown away when we were able to recover 20 ozt of gold and platinum from years of accumulated filings and polishing materials. The carpeting was literally worth its weight in gold.
We were really impressed by the novelty of this precious metal scrap-source. But surprisingly, there is a precedent for recovering gold from old carpeting! In 1893, reporters from the Lewiston Evening Journal took a tour of the San Francisco Mint, where they learned that the Mint actually had a procedure in place specifically to recover gold scrap from all of its carpeting. What’s more, the process wasn’t limited to carpeting, as you can see from this excerpt:
“The floors of the workrooms are covered with perforated iron flooring in small sections. Every night these sections are removed and the floor swept. The sweepings are then worked over with acid, and the yield in gold and silver amounts to $6,000 per annum. Once a year every truck about the building is burned, irrespective of its condition, and also the clothing worn in some of the workrooms, that not a particle of the previous metals may be lost. Once in four years the carpets of the adjusting room are burned. The last burning enriched the United States coffers to the extent of $3,200.”
Accounting for inflation, the Mint was recycling around $200,000 worth of gold with each of these “burning” events. Even though the average jeweler’s workshop doesn’t get the same volume of work as a minting facility, this idea could be profitable in some cases. After all, our last payout for carpeting ended up surpassing $23,000!