Extreme Temperature Diary- Thursday May 13th, 2021/ Main Topic: Why Recycling Of Renewable Hardware Will Be Crucial For Our Future

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: Why Recycling Of Renewable Hardware Will Be Crucial For Our Future

Dear Diary. Let’s face it. Components of any machines that we build eventually wear out. Throughout history most worn out cars and computer hardware have ended up in junk pikes or garbage bins. Moving towards a green future, this will not do.

Many components of batteries and devices, such as big wind mills and solar panels, are built out of increasingly hard to acquire rare metals. Many of these are mined in Africa where work conditions unfortunately remain quite harsh. Scientists and engineers are finding new ways for batteries to hold longer charges, for example, and to be manufactured from cheaper materials, but until mass production takes place we need to recycle old components.

Here is a recent Guardian article delving into why there is a big need to recycle green energy components:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/10/recycling-rare-metals-climate-green-technology

Experts call for mandatory recycling of products containing rare metals

Disc drives, circuit boards, fluorescent lamps and batteries for electric vehicles could be among affected products

Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

Mon 10 May 2021 08.00 EDT

Artisanal miners work at the Tilwezembe, a former industrial copper-cobalt mine outside of Kolwezi, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Artisanal miners work at the Tilwezembe, a former industrial copper-cobalt mine outside of Kolwezi, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photograph: a/Reuters

Rare elements such as indium, yttrium, neodymium, cobalt and lithium are vital for the production of low-carbon technology, but many are being thrown away because of the lack of a requirement to recycle them, industry experts have warned.

Concern is growing over the future supply of such elements, as the switch to green technology – including electric vehicles, solar panels and low-carbon heating – will require far greater volumes of rare earths and other critical raw materials.

Industry experts have called for tougher rules on recycling, in a report from Cewaste, a two-year project funded by the EU as part of its Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The authors examined what happens to such materials currently, and their potential future supply and cost.

Recycling should be mandatory for the critical raw materials present in circuit boards; magnets used in disc drives and electric vehicles; batteries for electric vehicles; and fluorescent lamps, they concluded.

Pascal Leroy, the director-general of the WEEE Forum, one of the organisations behind the report published on Monday, said: “The supply of these materials is not assured – for example, some come from countries where there is political instability. But some of these materials are critical [for green technology in future]. This should be regulated through mandatory standards.”

While relatively low-value metals such as copper, iron and even platinum are frequently recycled, rare metals are ignored or thrown away, because their use is often in small quantities that recyclers deem too expensive to recover.

However, uncertainties over the future supply of such materials and rapidly increasing demand, driven by the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, could force a supply crunch in future for critical materials, which would not only raise prices but could prove highly disruptive to forging a green economy, the report’s authors found. Waiting for such price rises to make recycling economical would leave manufacturers highly vulnerable to future shocks, they said.

Federico Magalini, the managing director of Sofies UK, a consultancy involved in the Cewaste report, said: “If we leave it to business as usual, we will dissipate the materials and in 20 years’ time we will have a shortage. The economic incentive to recycle some materials is missing currently.”

The small quantities of rare materials present in end products means that recycling for some materials could be concentrated in a small number of facilities. For instance, Europe would need only a handful of factories to recover fluorescent powders from all the lamps used across the continent.

Recycling efforts have tended to concentrate on high-volume metals that are easier to recycle, such as iron, aluminium and copper. In the EU, the regulatory targets are based on weight and volume, so there is little incentive for recyclers to seek out the small volumes of rare metals, despite their value.

The International Energy Agency recently calculated that if the world is to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions in 2050, demand for critical and rare minerals will be six times higher than today by 2040. Demand for lithium alone will be 40 times higher in 2040 because of its use in batteries.

Fatih Birol, the executive director of the energy watchdog, said: “The data shows a looming mismatch between the world’s strengthened climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals that are essential to realising those ambitions. Left unaddressed, these potential vulnerabilities could make global progress towards a clean energy future slower and more costly, and therefore hamper international efforts to tackle climate change.”

The IEA found that the production and processing of many materials, such as lithium, cobalt and rare earths, was highly concentrated in a handful of countries, with the top three producers accounting for more than three-quarters of global supplies. The Democratic Republic of the Congo produced 70% of cobalt and rare earths in 2019, and China produced 60%. China is also responsible for refining nearly 90% of the rare earths used globally.

This article was amended on 11 May 2021. Cobalt is a critical raw material but it is not a rare-earth metal as stated in an earlier version of the quick guide.

If there were ever a time to join us, it is now. Every contribution, however big or small, powers our journalism and helps sustain our future. Support the Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Support the Guardian Join the party

Here are some “ET’s” from around the world:

Here is more climate and weather news from Thursday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.