The supply of elements used in the creation of consumer gadgets and business technologies is depleted and the continued digging of the Earth for them is unsustainable, say new findings of the Royal Chemical Society (RSC).
In addition to the lack of natural supplies, global conflicts such as the war in Ukraine are also affecting supply chains, with higher prices being passed on to consumers.
Last year’s increase in demand, combined with volatile markets, caused the price of lithium – a key component in batteries – to rise almost fivefold from its initial level between 2021 and 2022.
The discarded technology is an almost unused source of elements such as lithium, indium and nickel, which are used to create basic technical components.
It is estimated that last year alone the world dumped more than 57 million tons of electronics – and that amount is growing by about 2 million tons each year.
Less than 20% of the total is collected for recycling, which is currently a difficult and dangerous process. RSC President Professor Tom Welton called on governments and private businesses to do more to address this challenge.
Not only do we need governments to renovate recycling infrastructure and technology businesses to invest in more sustainable production practices, we need more public and private investment in research to enable chemists like those in N2S to improve methods for separating critical raw materials from e-waste for recycling purposes. “
According to an RSC survey of 10,000 people in 10 countries around the world, more than half (57%) of people believe that producers should be responsible for recycling and sustainability of consumer technologies.
Nearly two thirds (62%) of people are concerned about the depletion of natural resources caused by the production of electronic devices, and about the same (60%) say they would be willing to switch to a competitor of their preferred technology brand. f. Apple trading for Samsung) if they knew that the product they were buying was manufactured sustainably.
However, despite the appetite for recycling, more than half of those surveyed either did not know what to do with their old technology or did not think that local processes could handle e-waste.
“Manufacturers and retailers need to take more responsibility,” RSC’s Elizabeth Ratcliffe said on Radio 4. “Like return schemes,” which means people can return their electronics to retailers and be safe. that they will be recycled safely.
“All this instability in supply chains really only reinforces the fact that we need a circular economy for these materials. At the moment, we’re just getting them out of the ground all the time. “
RSCs Precious Elements campaignLaunched in 2019 and recently updated with new data, it aims to make everyone more aware of how they use and reuse technology.