Rare metals lost in binned products
Friday 16 March 2012
Precious and rare metals worth millions are thrown away in the UK
each year in scrapped consumer goods such as old mobile phones, the
Government said today.
Metals ranging from gold to cobalt and rare earth elements such as neodymium are used in electronic equipment including phones, laptops, headphones, rechargeable batteries and TVs - but are lost when the consumer goods end up in landfill.
It is estimated that between now and 2020, the UK will throw away 12 million tonnes of electronic equipment, a quarter of which will be IT equipment and other goods which contain around 63 tonnes of palladium and 17 tonnes of iridium.
The amount of palladium lost would be worth £1 billion on today's market, while the iridium would be worth £380 million.
And almost a quarter of the consumer goods thrown away could be fixed and resold in their current form, worth a potential £200 million a year.
China produces 95% of "rare earth metals", and the EU, US and Japan this week took a complaint over the country's export restrictions to the World Trade Organisation.
Unstable countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo produce key materials including cobalt, which is used in phone, laptop and digital camera batteries.
A recent survey by the manufacturers organisation EEF of chief executives found that four fifths believed materials shortages would be a risk to their business this year.
In a bid to tackle rising consumer demand and an increasing reliance on metals from abroad, the Government has launched an action plan to help businesses reuse and recycle the metals in products.
The resource security action plan will provide £200,000 for businesses to come up with new ways of reusing or recycling precious metals and develop a map of where and how metals come in and out of the UK in electrical and electronic goods.
It is hoped it will help businesses find new ways of keeping hold of materials, so that they do not go to waste. Currently, for example, of £350 million of gold used each year in the UK, 75% is lost through traditional recycling processes.
The plan will also see a new industry-led consortium assess risks and opportunities for businesses in the UK, and the development of a website with information for companies about the metals they rely on.
Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "Businesses are already feeling the heat from uncertainty in the supply of the speciality metals used in mobile phones, medical equipment and aeroplanes.
"We're working with business to help prepare for these risks - but there is also a multibillion-pound opportunity in the massive amount of valuable metals lost because of how we deal now with products people no longer want.
"I want to see British businesses taking advantage of this golden opportunity to boost growth and jobs through how we design products, while re-using, recycling or substituting valuable metals."
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "This plan will help UK businesses to better withstand any changes in both supply and price, make the most of emerging growth opportunities, create high-skilled jobs and compete on the world stage."
EEF's head of climate and environment, Gareth Stace, said: "This plan is a step in the right direction but government must now build on this and take a broader view on resources.
"Access to raw materials is a growing issue for manufacturing with one in three firms rating this as their top risk for this year.
"Disruption to supply of key materials is a growing risk to manufacturers and their supply chains with scare materials concentrated in just a few countries and global demand growing rapidly.
"These materials are not widely recycled and not easily substituted with alternatives."
He warned the UK could not afford to sit back while competitors in Germany, the US, Japan and China were ahead in responding to the issue, and called for a strategy to help ensure resource security and create incentives for resource efficiency.
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...