So I recently reviewed my own metal a stone buying process and fell down a bit of a rabbit whole and found a big gap in what I thought were great labels when buying materials, mainly what 'Recycled Metal' really is.
Turns out I am a sucker for a good bit of green washing. I looked around me at other ethical jewellery brands and saw....
What is 'recycled metal'? It is exactly as you imagine...or is it?
I thought it would be metal that had been used before which is then made fit for use again.
My suppliers could only say where they purchased their metal from, not where it originated. That doesn't sound too bad I thought.
Probably normal for recycled goods?
The highest governing body and most well known for labeling and setting guidelines for what recycled precious metals are is the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC).
So I looked into these guidelines. This is when my eyes opened.
Only the last few steps in the recycled process are looked at. But the actual origin of the metal isn't. *insert brain alarm bell noise here!*
So what does this actually mean?
It means ANY metal can enter the process.
You do not need to declare who you are or where it came from.
You could even go on holiday, take a trip to a mine, buy some metal from anyone, then take a taxi and sell it to a collector and say what ever you like about where it came from. No one will check. (please do not actually do this)
A lot of recycled metal is from the electronics industry that probably has it own set of guidelines that I am not privy to. Such as the chemicals used, how they are disposed etc etc. Is it worse than mining new metal? I do not know tbh, but I will find out!
There are steps that could be put into place to reduce the risk. Such as not allowing gold or silver bars to enter the process. Since they clearly have been to a processing plant already and checks on how the material arrives and who is selling it.
This is not to say what the RJC is doing is wrong, but from my own personal view point it is not enough.
Also,did you know most NEW silver is actually a by product of mining for gold.
The best way to stay ethical would be to buy from 'fairtrade' and 'fairmined' suppliers. At the moment this is a premium product with higher price tags and not something I can purchase on a daily basis. I do keep my eye on the price and as soon as it becomes commerically viable for Vurchoo I will be jumping on that band wagon.
Until that time I will stay part of the movement and support and belong to groups such as Fair Luxury.
Being ethical or sustainable is not a final statement but a declaration of the journey you are in. We are all in different points of this journey and it is about trying to be better than you were yesterday.
So to sum it up.
The world doesn't need 100 perfect brands. It needs millions trying to be better.