The stockpile of old gadgets putting rare elements at danger in the UK

An economy majorly depending on tech needs to realize that the elements used to make mobile phone and computers or any electronic device for that matter are rare elements. Given this and the fact that natural resources are set to run out within the next 100 years, it is putting the industry at danger.

The Royal Society of Chemistry suggests that there are around 40 million unused devices, containing rare elements, in the Uk gathering dust. Some elements are at the brink of losing the ability to return. The government needs to get in action and do something about this before the rare elements become extinct. All the mp3s and television and tech have become a part of our daily lives. It is in order to sustain these electronic devices that we need to figure out a solution to save the rare elements because all devices make use of them. 

uk rare elements at danger old gadgets
As many as 75 chemical elements go into the average mobile phone – Lizzy Ratcliffe of the Royal Society of Chemistry, with some of the older devices handed in by staff during a recent amnesty.

How the UK can suffer in the future 

The advent of 5G is on the rise and all current smartphones offer 4G compatibility. For 5G new smartphones would have to be made. Royal Society of Chemistry suggests that 82% of UK households have no plans for recycling their unused devices such as mobile phones, computers, etc. 

The findings come as part of the International Year of the Periodic Table and after the increasing scarcity of some of the naturally occurring elements used in phones was highlighted by the European Chemical Society (EuChemS).

Robert Parker, CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry said: “As individuals, reuse and recycling are the best options available to us, but even if recycled it is still extremely difficult to recover some of these elements from unused devices. We need action now – from governments, manufacturers, and retailers – to make reuse and recycling much easier, and we must enable a new generation of chemistry talent to help. The UK has a tremendous opportunity to become a world leader in this and set an example for other nations to follow.” 

The suggested Solutions

A recent workshop of Royal Society of Chemistry took place on Mitigating Future Wastes where it was suggested that retailers should take back schemes for commonly upgraded devices and manufacturers should build devices allowing users to remove data when they recycle them. 

Devices should be built as eco-friendly and the raw materials should be easily recovered from them at the end of their useful lives. Further research by relevant institutions is being carried out to find solutions for the problem. 

“Lots of the currently used processes for recovering the precious metals are chemical-heavy and not very environmentally friendly, for example using acids – so while we need to do better at using these materials and devising synthetics, we also need to think of chemistry solutions for extracting materials in a reusable way,” said Robert. 

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