The way we recycle metals needs to change
Electrical & electronic products are becoming increasingly more complex. One type of metal can be found alongside almost any other metal, or number of materials in a product. This makes efficient recycling of materials much harder. The United Nations Environment Programme’s International Resource Panel has called for a far more sophisticated approach to recycling.
If populations in emerging countries adopt similar technologies and lifestyles as us, it is estimated that the amount of metal needed to supply the world would be between five and nine times larger than it is currently. As societies and technologies change, the demand for some metals is growing much faster than for others. Because current technologies are inefficient at recycling, this often means metals are being lost in the process as slag.
It is clear that the growing world population cannot continue to consume metals and other materials at the current rate that western industrialised society does without going beyond what is sustainable. Another factor to add in is that as we produce more metals from ore, we are also adding to Co2 emissions. For example global steel production is estimated to currently produce 3.6 million tonnes of Co2. Increasing this by five to nine times would have a significant impact on our planet.
Recycling produces far less emissions than mining and producing new metals. Legislation within Europe has helped with the recovery of metals however technology advances need urgent attention to enable us to recover more materials from a product in an efficient and Eco friendly way.
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