Personal Growth

E-waste in 2021 could weigh more than the Great Wall of China

In its report, WEEE Forum director Pascal Leroy presses manufacturers to acknowledge their role in this problem, citing electronics’ shrinking lifespans and the fight these companies are waging against consumers’ right to repair. The waste is hard to fathom, from multiple angles: A ton of discarded mobile phones now contains more gold than a ton of gold ore, UN Sustainable Cycles Program director Ruediger Kuehr tells WEEE Forum. Which means that, technically, mining iPhones should now be more lucrative than extracting actual gold nuggets from the rocks in a mine. And unless we reduce their use, we’re at risk in the next century of running out of several other elements used as smartphone materials—some random chemicals like gallium, arsenic, silver, indium, yttrium, and tantalum.

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