Have you already wondered what happens to your cellphone when you decide to get rid of it? Hint: no, it doesn’t magically disintegrate on his own.
Rare earths are essential components of high tech products. Even if they are not “rare” since they are present worldwide, their extraction is difficult, expensive and polluting. And yet, only 1% are recycled : the process is costly and difficult to put in place since quantities are minimal.
Rare earth are used in batteries for electric cars, smartphones, computers, wind turbines and solar panels connected objects… and also necessary to polish flat screens. In fact many products that are considered as essential to move the economy towards decarbonisation need them in their manufacturing process. Considering the multiplication by 8 of rare earth production, the issue is becoming very preoccupying.
Today 85% of rare earth are extracted from China, especially because extraction must be concentrated to be profitable. This situation leads to geopolitical tensions and environmental damages.
We absolutely need to find solutions to overcome this. Finding new ways to recycle rare earth should be a priority. That’s why, at We Don’t Need Roads, we would love to shed some light on bright initiatives coming from the private sector :
- The MeCaWare (Metal Capture for Waste Recycling) process is a technology that enables to recycle rare earth and critical metals in a less expensive and energy-consuming way.
- The REEgain project is a scientific initiative that aims to develop a technology to recycle rare earth through micro-organisms. They absorb rare earths into their cells and ferment them. At the end of the fermentation process, rare earth are extracted from those micro-organisms.
Let’s hope these solutions will be able to develop and let’s keep an eye on their evolution !
We don’t need roads, we do need bold moves.
#sustainability #climatepositive #positiveimpact #climatechange #sustainableeconomy #economicaldarwinism #positiveeconomy #transition #scale