Fancy Rocks, Old Microwaves, and Laser Beams

If you're anything like me, you're not quite sure what rare earth metals are. Sure, you can take an educated guess and say something like "rare earth metals are some sort of fancy rocks that the earth doesn't have much of..." At least, that was my first guess. Maybe you're a bit wiser than I, and more scientifically inclined, and have figured out that rare earth metals are not just fancy rocks, but they are, in fact, rather important fancy rocks. These rare earth metals are found in most everything we use. More importantly, these metals are in our technology and we're kind of wasting them...

Rare earth metals are found in anything from lasers, to camera lenses, to cell phones, and portable x-ray machines. They're in televisions, batteries, and microwaves. While you're talking to your grandma, watching television, and heating up leftovers, you're using tons of rare earth metals. It's not bad that we use them. They're part of our everyday lives and many of us probably couldn't get through a whole day without using them.

The problem stems from what we do with these rare earth metals when we're done with them. We're constantly upgrading all our old electronics and getting rid of the older models. Drive through neighborhoods long enough and you'll see an old school TV here and there waiting by the curb for garbage day. Old microwaves lie in pieces at the bottom of dumpsters and dated cellphones are tossed into the trash without a second thought. It seems that if we can't sell it, we toss it. No one wants to deal with the crusted on food leftover in your old microwave, anyway.

However, this is no way to give up old electronics. These carefully crafted pieces of technology are chock full of rare earth metals and we're kicking them to the curb - literally!

The cool thing about rare earth metals is that they can be recycled. The Yttrium in your old TV can be used in new microwaves. Thulium from disposed portable x-rays can be used in lasers. In fact, a lot of rare earth metals can be used in lasers. There are facilities just dying to get their hands on your old technology in order to reuse them in new technology. These facilities can't make new rare earth metals. No one can. These elements of the earth are made by the earth and, as the name claims, they're rare! Eventually, we're going to run out of them. And that means no more reheated leftovers at the touch of a button or getting x-rays of broken bones or the possibility of awesome laser guns for space battles...

Finding a place to recycle is easy. Google was made for this! Many facilities will be ecstatic to take your old tech and help turn it into something new.

Just think, the fancy rocks in your old microwave could be turned into laser beams - and that's pretty cool.