Future green economy depends on recycling high-tech metals, UN says
If the world wants to turn to a global green economy, the United Nations says it will have to rely on the recycling of high-tech specialty metals. According to the UN, clean technologies of the future will increasingly hinge on "rapid improvements" in the recycling rates of metals such as lithium, neodymium and gallium.
These metals are essential for the production of green devices such as wind turbines, fuel cells, efficient lighting and photovoltaics for hybrid car batteries. They are also somewhat rare, existing in only small supplies or select locations.
Despite this scarcity and the potential for high prices, the UN says only about one percent of these metals are currently being recycled. Without an improvement in this area, the UN warns that these metals could become "essentially unavailable for use in modern technology."
This conclusion is based on preliminary findings from Metals Recycling Rates, an upcoming report from the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management hosted by the UN Environment Program. The full report is due out later this year.
Metals such as iron, copper, lead and aluminum are already widely recycled, but improving the recycling rates of these resources could have a positive impact as well. The UN says better collection systems and improved infrastructure could possibly save billions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions while generating green jobs. Recycling these materials is between two and ten times more energy efficient than mining, according to the report.
Technological improvements to recycling are already in place in communities such as Charlotte, North Carolina. Charlotte’s NewsChannel 36 reports that small transmitters have been embedded in the city’s household recycling containers, allowing officials to determine which neighborhoods are recycling and keep track of the containers. The city is also giving residents larger recycling barrels and collecting less frequently, which officials say will equate to taking 22 trucks off the road.Related Posts