DEPLETION OF MINERAL STOCKS
Let’s face it. We all love to consume stuff; cars, phones, jewellery, fancy furniture etc. But little do we realise that to put together a product, be it a car or a phone, materials need to travel all over the globe. That is the reality of our current global economy.
It’s not that I’m against globalisation, far from it, it’s just that certain aspects of globalisation can be localised for example food production.
The rice, apples and bananas you eat would come from over a 1000 miles from where you live. To grow them it takes fertilizer, farm equipment running on diesel and a lot of land space. And this is usually high intensive farming, using a lot of water, pesticides and fertilizer, having a rather high environmental impact. And these food needs to be shipped across oceans to get to your grocery store. Now imagine all that money, fuel and labor costs that go into getting your favourite bananas or tomatoes...
However, with the advent of the new “urban SkyFarm” project in Seoul and floating farms in Rotterdam, localised food production (not just in villages but in the city centre itself) is becoming a reality. Farming obviously needs a crap ton of land space, space which is very limited nowadays thanks to high human population, desertification etc. So what the urban SkyFarm project does is build vertical instead of horizontal, meaning less precious space is lost in city centres yet in it, we’ll be able to produce food in a sustainable way and also all the greenery would absorb a lot of CO2 from the atmosphere, becoming a sort of mini-carbon sink in the city.
The Gigafactory built by Tesla inc. has but one seminal purpose, which is the localised mass production of lithium ion batteries. Instead of taking a long trip from mining lithium in Chile and going to purification in Japan and assembly in China, all the raw materials are brought to the Gigafactory and assembled using high speed robots inside the factory itself, saving a lot of money and reducing the footprint of making a battery.
Alright, let’s go back to phones and laptops... So what should you do once it’s time to change phones or buy a new laptop? Well, it’s time to recycle. Mobile phones and laptops (and most electrical equipment) have a lot of precious metals inside parts like the motherboard and such. Gold, silver, nickel, tungsten and copper you name it... And we don’t exactly have an unlimited supply of these metals (yes we won’t be able to make copper cables or hot water pipes forever). Hence once you've decided it’s time to get rid of your phone... DON’T... There are plenty of companies out there who take old phones and strip them to the bone and get all those valuable metals, and yes they pay and take your phone depending on how the condition of it is. So in the end, you are not only keeping those precious metals circling in the economy, but you also earn a happy buck too. Same can be said to aluminium drinks cans, old newspapers and cardboard and glass bottles and all that stuff that we take for granted and just throw away. Recycling materials keeps them in the economy, throwing away stuff so that it gets incinerated removes them from the economy and we can’t use them again, so we can’t get any monetary value. Recycling means we are able to make more stuff out of those precious metals we scavenged from mobile phone motherboards, more electric equipment or perhaps even jewelery. This is the basis of a circular economy and how we can prevent the rapid depletion of the mineral stocks that we have and use them in a sustainable way so that future generations would have enough as well.