In this great BBC article, “Mine E-Waste, Not the Earth,” we get a well-rounded portrait of all the precious metals and minerals going to waste in our current system of electronics consumption. It’s a quick read, but really interesting. They go into not just what we’re doing now and what it does to the world we live in, but also how things could be better. At RetirePC we know they could, and we’re committed to helping make that happen.
Earth’s Minerals and Metals
Mining the Earth for precious metals to make new gadgets is simply unsustainable. Some of the 30 different elements smartphones contain are simply running out worldwide. Despite all this being known, the e-waste we generate still grows by about two million tons each year… And less than 20 percent is currently collected and recycled.
In 2021 alone, the world’s discarded electronics weighed an estimated 57 million tons. Supply chains for precious metals are threatened by global conflicts like the war in Ukraine, which has spiked the price of nickel and other minerals.
Combined with the surge in demand, these supply chain issues have sent the price of the key battery element lithium skyrocketing by almost 500% in a single year. Demand for Lithium batteries can only increase despite the price. Our dependence on technology is increasing as our critical resources are decreasing. Without significant changes in our consumption patterns and a ramp-up in recycling efforts, the impact on both environment and global supply chains could be severe.
What’s Running Out
Smartphones are ubiquitous in modern society, but many of the elements crucial to their construction will be scarce in the next century. Here are just a few examples of the resources essential to our technology whose availability is failing:
Beyond smartphones, Gallium is used in medical thermometers, LEDs, solar panels, and telescopes, and may have anti-cancer properties. Arsenic is used in fireworks and for preserving wood. Silver is used in mirrors, sunlight-reactive lenses, antibacterial clothing, and gloves for touch screens. Indium is used in transistors, microchips, fire-sprinkler systems, Formula One cars, and solar panels. Yttrium is used in white LED lights, camera lenses, and for treating cancer, while the Tantalum in surgical implants, neon light electrodes, supersonic aircraft, rocket nozzles, hearing aids and pacemakers is also facing the risk of depletion.
People Want to Help
An online survey of 10,000 people, across ten countries, showed that 60 percent of people would switch tech brands if their products were made sustainably. They also expressed concern about the environmental impact of keeping unused devices in their homes. The survey revealed that most people simply don’t know how to dispose of e-waste, and/or they’re worried about the security of recycling programs. The result is millions of us hoarding precious elements by hanging onto our old phones and computers.
What We Can Do
As one expert noted in the article, this supply chain volatility just reinforces the fact that “we need a circular economy for these materials” rather than simply “mining them out of the ground constantly.” Manufacturers and retailers need to take responsibility for e-waste and “take-back” programs can mean returning our electronics to retailers for secure recycling. But that’s only one of many possible solutions that, taken together, can change this story for good.
RetirePC Is Your E-Waste Solution
“Reduce, reuse, and recycle,” as the sustainability credo goes. This might mean keeping your phone for longer, selling an old phone or even giving it to a relative. The truth is that it will take everyone working together to scale up these processes and get that circular infrastructure in place.
Recycling your old technology and e-waste is not only good for the environment but also for peace of mind. With RetirePC, you can dispose of your old devices safely and securely. Our expert team will wipe your hard drives clean of any personal data and ensure your e-waste is disposed of in an environmentally responsible way. Whether you’re a business or an individual, RetirePC offers a range of services to suit your needs. Visit our website to learn more about the services we offer and together, we can make a difference in preserving our planet for future generations. Contact us today!