Scientists claim that increasing e-waste recycling is vital since mining the Earth for valuable metals to build new gadgets is unsustainable. According to one estimate, the world’s pile of abandoned gadgets weighed 57 million tonnes in 2021 alone. The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) said that instead of mining the Earth, a global effort is now required to extract that trash. Supply systems for precious metals are also threatened by global wars. The RSC is undertaking a campaign to raise awareness about how mining all of the precious elements used in consumer technology is unsustainable. It notes that geopolitical unrest, such as the conflict in Ukraine, has resulted in massive price increases for minerals like nickel, which is used in electric vehicle batteries. The “chaos in supply chains” that enable the creation of electronics is being caused by the volatility in the element market.

Between 2021 and 2022, the price of lithium, another crucial component in battery technology, increased by about 500 percent due to the growth in demand. Some essential components are rapidly diminishing. “Our tech consumption habits remain highly unsustainable and have left us at risk of exhausting the raw elements we need,” said Prof. Tom Welton, president of the Royal Society of Chemistry, adding that those habits were “continuing to exacerbate environmental damage”. Meanwhile, the amount of e-waste produced annually is increasing by roughly two million tonnes. Only around 20% of the waste is collected and recycled. “We need governments to overhaul recycling infrastructure and tech businesses to invest in more sustainable manufacturing,” said Prof. Welton.