Contemporary anthropogenic silver cycle: a multilevel analysis

Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Jun 15;39(12):4655-65. doi: 10.1021/es048319x.


Anthropogenic cycling of silver in 1997 is presented using three discrete governmental units: 64 countries encompassing what we believe to be over 90% of global silver flows, 9 world regions, and the entire planet. Using material flow analysis (MFA) techniques, the country level cycles are aggregated to produce the regional cycles, which are used to form a "best estimate" global cycle. Interesting findings include the following: (1) several silver-mining countries export ore and concentrate but also import silver-containing semiproducts and products; (2) the level of development for a country, as indicated by the gross domestic product, is a fair indicator of silver use, but several significant outliers exist; (3) the countries with the greatest mine production include Mexico, the United States, Peru, and China, whereas the United States, Japan, India, Germany, and Italy lead in the fabrication and manufacture of products; (4) North America and Europe's use of silver products exceed that of other regions on a per capita basis; (5) global silver discards, including tailings and separation waste, totaled approximately 57% of the silver mined; (6) approximately 57% of the silver entering waste management globally is recycled; and (7) the amount of silver entering landfills globally is comparable to the amount found in tailings. The results of this MFA lay the basis for further analysis, which in turn can offer insight into natural resource policy, the characterization of environmental impact, and better resource management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / economics*
  • Manufactured Materials / economics*
  • Metallurgy / economics*
  • Mining / economics*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Silver / chemistry*
  • Waste Management*


  • Silver