The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report last Thursday warning of barriers to developing newer, greener technology if recycling rates of rare metals don’t increase. These metals can be extracted without mining by recycling various electronic products and removing the metals.
According to an article by Fast Company magazine, the UNEP report stated, "recycling one million cell phones could recover 50 pounds of gold, 550 pounds of silver, 20 pounds of palladium, and 20,000 pounds of copper."
The study focused on global recycling rates, finding recycling levels of lead to be high, primarily from batteries, with gold and silver close behind, but with less than 15% attributable to electronics. However, 34 of the 60 rare metals identified in the study have recycling rates less than 1%.
The bottom line? Without more recycling, the materials needed for technology such as solar panels, hybrid cars, and LEDs may be in short supply.
Recycling e-waste is a core issue for CAW, which is why we are current supporting three bills this legislative session aimed at increasing these recycling rates as well as ensuring e-waste is recycled responsibly. To read more about AB 794 (a bill to strengthen the e-waste law), AB 960 (a bill that will reduce the export of e-waste overseas) and SB 515 (a household battery recycling bill), visit our legislative pages.
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