An Element of Recycling

There are, I know, people living in Brentwood and Ongar who have a deep love and understanding of chemistry. They will have revelled in school science lessons and in the last couple of weeks may even have strolled out of school halls with high A level and GCSE grades in the recent exams, or watched in pride as their protegees move on to study the subject at University.

And then there’s the rest of us, who struggled to understand the basics. Thank goodness for Tom Lehrer and his song about the elements making the periodic table slightly less mysterious.

However, a lack of understanding about the rarity of certain elements and how they are vital in our everyday lives has been highlighted this week with the Royal Society of Chemistry pointing out the growing shortage of rare elements that are contained in smartphones and other consumer technologies.

Smartphones contain metals such as indium and tantalum, but these elements are also important components in the manufacture of solar panels, wind turbines, and innovative care technologies. Natural sources of six of the elements found in mobile phones are set to run out within the next 100 years, yet far too many of us have drawerfuls of old phones and broken bits of technology tucked away in our homes.

The Royal Society of Chemistry wants to see us all safeguard our supply of these rare earth elements by recycling our phones and old technology far more efficiently. Both Brentwood Borough Council and Epping Forest District Council have advice on their websites on how you can do this. Many charities collect them in because they can generate income by recycling them correctly.

Clearing out clutter is a small thing to do, but it could mean rare elements are brought back into circulation and that is good news for our planet.