Chemical elements used to make mobile phones added to 'endangered list'

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 22 January 2019 in News

Smartphones are made up of around 30 elements, over half of which are likely to become increasingly scarce

Image credit: Pixabay

Forecasted shortages of the chemical elements used to make mobile phones have seen the components added to an “endangered list” by scientists at the University of St Andrews.

Smartphones are made up of around 30 elements, over half of which are likely to become increasingly scarce, either through limited supplies, their location in conflict areas, or an incapacity to fully recycle them.

With around 10 million smartphones discarded or replaced every month in the European Union alone, Emeritus Professor in Chemistry at the University of St Andrews, Professor David Cole-Hamilton, urged users to recycle old phones correctly.

Professor David Cole-Hamilton said: “It is astonishing that everything in the world is made from just 90 building blocks, the 90 naturally occurring chemical elements.

“There is a finite amount of each and we are using some so fast that they will be dissipated around the world in less than 100 years.

“Many of these elements are endangered, so should you really change your phone every two years?”

The European Chemical Society called for greater recognition of the risk to the lifespan of elements, and the need to support better recycling practices and a true circular economy.

Catherine Stihler, Labour MEP for Scotland and former Rector of the University of St Andrews, said: “As we mark the 150th anniversary of the periodic table, it’s fascinating to see it updated for the 21st century.

“But it’s also deeply worrying to see how many elements are on the endangered list, including those which make up mobile phones.

“It is a lesson to us all to care for the world around us, as these naturally-occurring elements won’t last forever unless we increase global recycling rates and governments introduce a genuine circular economy.”

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