Value Beyond Price

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 11:24 AM

Many people are aware of the technological revolution that is benefitting millions of lives around the world. With major advances in almost every field of science and technology from medical to particle physics, the recent boom of technologies available to aid human progression is astonishing. However, few people are educated on the actual value of many of the raw materials that these advances depend on, an ignorance that has had irreversible consequences. Those consequences are the global ravishing of earths natural recourses, especially concentrated on a small group of elements known as rare earth metals that drive our technological progress.


                                                                     www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2014

Despite our infatuation with modern technology, little attention is payed to the the costly and inefficient process of mining and refining the metals that they depend on. This process is extremely detrimental to the earth and her natural recourses, taking in decades what took millions of years to create. The products then created from these metals are extremely problematic throughout their life-stream, creating an immense amount of waste from start to finish. It is almost impossible to repurpose many of the rare metals that exist in our consumer products, especially that of electronics. All of these products exist in a system that is complaisant with planned obsolescence. Creating product comprised of long lasting, rare earth metals, but only having a life span of about a year. This creates a dangerous combination that has led to the fastest growing waste stream with the least potential for recycling and the highest cost to our global environment and progression. trail-of-toxic-e-waste

The majority of consumer products are not built to last, especially our personal tech-devices. When a small part breaks, we dispose of the entire product (if we’re not just upgrading). Cell phones, tablets, TV’s and computers are just some of the products that depend on a large amount of rare earth metals that are being needlessly disposed of. Without proper ways to recycle the rare earth metals, these and many other electronic devices comprise the issues of e-waste that continues exponentially.

However with China controlling the majority of rare earth metal exports and their trade regulations increasing cost around the world, everyone is looking towards alternatives. From major corporations like Toyota to minor Upstarts like Phonebloks, companies around the world are striving to reduce their dependency on rare earth metals without compromising the convenience of their technologies. All with the hopes to one day ending the need for non-renewable recourses.

Next Week; What to do as consumers

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