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Staggering quantities of energy transition metals are winding up in the garbage bin

Grist: “To build all of the solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehiclebatteries, and other technologies necessary to fight climate change, we’re going to need a lot more metals. Mining those metals from the Earth creates damage and pollution that threaten ecosystems and communities. But there’s another potential source of the copper, nickel, aluminum, and rare-earth minerals needed to stabilize the climate: the mountain of electronic waste humanity discards each year.  Exactly how much of each clean energy metal is there in the laptops, printers, and smart fridges the world discards? Until recently, no one really knew. Data on more obscure metals like neodymium and palladium, which play small but critical roles in established and emerging green energy technologies, has been especially hard to come by. Now, the United Nations has taken a first step toward filling in these data gaps with the latest installment of its periodic report on e-waste around the world. Released last month, the new Global E-Waste Monitor shows the staggering scale of the e-waste crisis, which reached a new record in 2022 when the world threw out 62 million metric tons of electronics. And for the first time, the report includes a detailed breakdown of the metals present in our electronic garbage, and how often they are being recycled.”

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