Better end user recycling is a viable alternative to deep seabed mining
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As the production of electrical products has increased, so has the volume of waste electronic and electrical equipment (e-waste), which is now considered the fastest growing waste stream in the world.51 With land-based resources of certain metals becoming scarce, and seabed mining posing such a significant environmental risk, it is crucial that e-waste is recycled responsibly, to extract valuable materials from discarded products such as mobile phones and laptops rather than disposing of them in landfills.52 For example, a mobile phone at the end of its lifespan can be responsibly recycled in order to recover materials – such as gold, copper and silver – that were used to build it.
Responsible e-waste recycling can be a more efficient way to source metal than mining virgin ore, and can provide larger volumes of metal than virgin stocks.53 Some experts claim that electronic waste now contains precious metal “deposits” 40 to 50 times richer than ores mined from the ground.54 The responsible recycling of minerals would also create jobs and business opportunities.55
Rather than turning to the seabed for future sources of minerals, end-user industries should invest in designing products that minimise the use of these minerals and have a longer life, as well as take responsibility for reusing and recycling initiatives, including effective take-back schemes for their own products.