|Wind turbines are a source of renewable energy, but require massive amounts of REEs.|
When you think about sustainability, what do you envision? Conservation of forests and marine habitats. Reducing greenhouse gasses and air pollution. Electric cars and solar panels. What are you doing to lead a more sustainable lifestyle? Using recycled products and products made of recycled materials. Using paper or reusable versus plastic bags at the grocery store. Many people have adopted sustainable habits without even thinking about it, many companies are producing products with a sustainable future in mind. However, as our need for new technology grows, so does the amount of rare earth metals being harvested to produce it. Cell phones, laptops, hybrid cars, wind turbines, solar cells and other products depend on rare earth metals to function.
New mines are being developed in many countries, including Australia, Brazil, Vietnam and Canada to meet the increasing demand of rare earth metals and to stabilize the price of these materials. More mining, however, means an increase in environmental degradation in these locations. The processing and refinement of rare earth metals releases radioactive contaminates into the air, soil and groundwater.
|MolyCorp mine is California begins production in 2015.|
Adopting sustainable practices with our technology is not a far-fetched idea. This can come in many forms; from changing our annual upgrade habits to increasing our e-waste recycling. Instead of getting the latest iPad Air, though it’s as affordable as ever, ask yourself if you really need it. If you do, make a conscious effort to recycle or resell your old device to a place that recycles. Although e-waste recycling cannot completely satisfy the demand for rare earth metals and other materials, it can help conserve the energy and resources used in mining and processing those materials. E-waste recycling also alleviates some of the demand for these rare earth metals, providing some leverage for pricing these materials. Not to mention reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution of air and groundwater, just like many other sustainability efforts.