A group of Japanese scientists have started experimenting with salmon milt (sperm), believing it could be used to recycle valuable rare earth metals as part of the electronic waste recovery process.
Nothing Goes To Waste
Not only is fish milt a rich source of DNA, the fishing industry in Japan discards thousands of tonnes of milt each year as a waste product. It’s plentiful, cheap and environmentally friendly. It sounds pretty bizarre, but it turns out that many metals can actually stick to DNA. The metal waste can then be separated by simply adding some acid into the mix, reversing the process, making it possible for them to be recycled.
Could It Work For Mercury Recovery?
Of course, it’s a long way from small-scale experiments to an industrially viable process, but it got us wondering if fish sperm could actually play a role in recycling mercury.
It turns out that mercury in various forms can bind to DNA, so that’s a good start but mercury is different to all the other metals out there. It’s liquid at room temperature and has a relatively low boiling point. That means we can easily recycle mercury using a one-step distillation process without creating any additional waste. Our equipment can handle large quantities of mercury waste and doesn’t require any chemicals, so for now, distillation is the process that we will be sticking with.
But that doesn’t mean it’s game over for fish milt. It could still find a role in mercury waste management and resource recovery in the near future.
Mercury Pollution Is Still A Problem
The proper disposal of mercury waste from all sources is something that the world is still working towards with the Minamata Convention. In the meantime, a lot of mercury from dental amalgam and fluorescent lamps and tubes still ends up in landfill. Inappropriate mercury disposal means that mercury waste continues to contaminate waterways where it can be converted into highly toxic methylmercury. Fish easily accumulate methylmercury, so we need to take care of both the amount and type of fish we eat.
As it happens, methylmercury sticks strongly to DNA, so it would be interesting to see if salmon milt could play a role in the recovery of waste from mercury-polluted water.
While we won’t be popping down to the fish market for buckets of fish sperm to use in our mercury recovery process, you never know. Maybe one day fish sperm could play a role in cleaning up mercury-polluted water. Good for the fish, and good for us too.
Ecocycle Are A Fully Licensed Mercury Recycler
Ecocycle is Australasia’s most experienced mercury recovery and recycling company. We are the only company to be fully licensed by the Environmental Protection Agencies in each state to handle the entire process of recycling mercury-containing waste.
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