Source: Process and Control
The Guardian recently announced that the deep-sea gold rush for rare metals has officially begun, with mining companies planning to profit from rare earths discovered 4,000 metres below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. However, with millions of tons of e-waste produced every year and increasingly sophisticated techniques to recover rare metals from it, a more environmentally-friendly alternative might be hiding in plain sight. Neil Ballinger, head of EMEA at automation parts supplier EU Automation, explains the role of reconditioned components in reducing our dependence on mining rare earths.
While mining corporations look for the hidden treasure at the bottom of our oceans, an equally valuable one hides in plain sight.
In 2019, the global e-waste output was estimated to be 48.6 million tons, the equivalent of 350 cruise ships. With the COVID-19 pandemic triggering a massive surge in the use of digital technologies, we can only assume that this number is going to massively increase.
Many of our discarded devices, both consumer technology and industrial equipment, contain precious rare earths. Instead of rushing to mine rare metals from one of the few untouched ecosystems left on the planet, we should invest in viable methods of recovering the astonishing amount of these substances that are present in our discarded devices.
Refurbished components are not only safe to use, they can also help the growth of a circular economy — the only viable model to reach the net-zero targets our planet desperately needs.