Switzerland seems like a lovely place to live: snowy mountain peaks to ski, lakeside cities to explore, and 43 kilograms of gold flowing through the sewers that no one seems all that anxious about.
Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, known as EAWAG, its German acronym, surveyed 64 wastewater treatment plants across Switzerland and estimated that that up to 43kgs of gold passes through the country's sewerage system each year - an amount equal to around $1.8 million. Most of it is waste chemical and medical industries.
Apart from gold and silver, several other rare earth metals such as gadolinium and heavy metal niobium were also found in the Swiss wastewater.
Moreover, the same research team discovered that in this particular area where most manufacturers established their headquarters and shops, the amount of gold was so significant, they could collect it. This was the only region where it might make sense to recover the metals, Vriens said.
Their discovery is the latest example of wealthy Switzerland finding riches in unusual places.
Last month an investigation was launched after toilets at a Geneva bank and three restaurants were blocked by about US$100,000 in high-denomination banknotes - a bit different from the huge fat mass that blocked an east London sewer.