Natural elements found in phones could run out in 100 years

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
There can be up to 30 different elements in smartphones

Six natural elements found in mobile phones are set to run out within the next 100 years, the Royal Society of Chemistry has warned.

A survey of 2000 people, conducted by the Royal Society of Chemistry, found there could be up to 40 million electronic devices sitting unused in drawers and cupboards in the UK.

There can be up to 30 different elements in smartphones.

Indium, tanatalum, silver, arsenic, yttrium, and gallium are all predicted to run out in the next century, yet our demand for technology continues to rise.

These elements are used in products including LEDs, surgical implants, camera lenses and microchips.

Manufacturers are being urged by The Society to build repairability and recyclability into designs from the beginning, with government called on to introduce guidelines on how this can be achieved.

Robert Parker, CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “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.”

Mark Burrows-Smith, CEO of WEEE compliance scheme REPIC, said good data was key to understand how to access sources of critical raw materials.

“We hope news about the findings from the RSC's research will encourage more UK consumers to recycle any old gadgets currently stored in their homes, so that any valuable and critical raw materials they might contain can be captured for recycling."

In March, The European Chemical Society published a repurposed version of the Periodic Table of Elements to highlight the 90 naturally occurring elements which go into mobiles and those in danger of running out.


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