Open letter calls for clear definition of ‘recycled’ gold

In an effort to “combat greenwashing” within the gold and jewellery industry, 11 organisations have issued an open letter urging for clearer definitions of “recycled” gold. 

The letter explains that without standardised definitions and guidelines, the term "recycled" gold risks being exploited for marketing purposes

 The Alliance for Responsible Mining, Artisanal Gold Council, Ethical Metalsmiths, FairLuxury, Max Havelaar Switzerland, Impact, Pact, Solidaridad, Society for Threatened Peoples, Swissaid and The Impact Facility collectively penned the letter, emphasising the need for transparency and accountability in sustainable practices. 

The letter, addressed to International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), London Bullion Market Association (LMBA), Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC) and Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI) highlights the potential for misleading claims and practices within the industry.  

The letter explains that without standardised definitions and guidelines, the term “recycled” gold risks being exploited for marketing purposes, leading to consumer confusion and undermining “genuine efforts” towards sustainability. 


Contrary to popular belief, the letter explains that materials like plastic, high-grade gold products such as old jewellery are seldom discarded, making clarity on recycling “crucial.”  

The letter advocates for a transparent approach aligned with legal recycling definitions. It encourages companies to embrace broader sustainability initiatives, including safe e-waste recycling and improving conditions for artisanal and small-scale miners. 

Moreover, the coalition emphasises the unintended consequences of solely sourcing “recycled” gold, which may inadvertently disengage artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) communities. 

 They contend that ASM plays a “vital role” in the livelihoods of approximately 100 million people globally. The rising demand for gold has led to an expansion of ASM activities, and cutting off these supply chains under the guise of promoting recycled gold perpetuates informality within mining communities. This, they argue, represents a missed opportunity for gold supply chains to positively impact social and environmental goals, particularly in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 


The group proposes several actions the industry can take to improve its standards: 

  • Adopt a consistent definition of recycled gold: The industry and normative organisations are urged to align the definition of “recycled” gold with existing international, legal, and normative definitions of recycling. The coalition references a consensus reached by the Precious Metal Impact Forum in 2022, which restricted the term ‘recycled gold’ to waste material, while calling for ‘reprocessed gold’ to encompass all other non-waste and non-mining sources. 
  • Clarify OECD due diligence guidance: The OECD is called upon to clarify the scope of its due diligence guidance for responsible supply chains of minerals from conflict-affected and high-risk areas concerning the definition of recycled gold. The coalition asserts that the current interpretation of recyclable gold, which includes non-waste materials, is incompatible with waste legislation in most OECD member states. 
  • Engage civil society and consumer organisations: The involvement of civil society, NGOs, and consumer organisations is deemed essential in defining “recycled” gold standards and norms. 
  • Transparency in carbon footprint disclosure: All companies and consumer-facing brands are urged to disclose their methodology for calculating their gold carbon footprint and align it with independent scientific research. 

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