Scientists say that recycling of e-waste in now urgent and needs to be ramped up as current mining of precious metals for electronic devices is unsustainable.
Research suggests that 57 million tonnes of electronic waste was created in 2021 alone and with war in Ukraine and elsewhere, the supply of critical precious metals is coming under strain with huge spikes in the price of materials like nickel.
According to the society, consumption at its present rate could see gallium, arsenic, silver, indium, yttrium and tantalum all running out in the next century and, according to Prof Tom Welton, president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, continued mining will also exacerbate environmental damage.
While the e-waste generated is growing each year, just 20% is actually collected and then recycled.
The Royal Society has called on governments to overhaul existing recycling infrastructure and tech businesses to invest in more sustainable manufacturing. In fact, research carried out for the society found that consumers were more likely to switch to rival tech brands if products were shown to have been made in a sustainable way.
The Royal Society want to encourage people to take old and unwanted devices to recycling centres, and is urging a reduce, reuse and recycle approach to electronic products. It’s also running a campaign to draw attention to the unsustainability of mining precious elements that are used in consumer technology.