Failure to recycle old phones leading to shortage of vital battery material

Surging sales of laptops, phones and smart devices causing lithium and cobalt supply issues

Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment Ireland is urging people to recycle old equipment to help ensure there are sustainable reserves of the material needed to power these devices in the first place.

Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment Ireland is urging people to recycle old equipment to help ensure there are sustainable reserves of the material needed to power these devices in the first place.

 

Failing to recycle old phones and laptops is leaving us with a looming shortage of vital raw material for batteries to power new equipment, experts warn.

Surging sales of laptops, phones, power tools, e-scooters and smart devices is putting pressure on world supplies of the lithium and cobalt used in re-chargeable batteries.

Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Ireland is urging people to recycle old equipment to help ensure there are sustainable reserves of the material needed to power these devices in the first place.

“Many of us needlessly hold onto end-of-life gadgets that we’ve already replaced, such as phones and laptops, storing them in our attics, spare rooms, sheds and kitchen drawers,” said Leo Donovan of WEEE Ireland on Monday.

“By doing so, we are unwittingly contributing to an ever-growing supply problem as many of the metals and compounds can’t be recovered to be re-used in the manufacture of new batteries.”

Growing demand

Mr Donovan explained that lithium batteries power mobile devices used by everybody from ordinary people to Government.

He also noted that they will help cut greenhouse gas emissions, allowing the Republic to meet targets pledged under the Government’s Climate Action Plan.

Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows the world will not be able to mine and process the materials needed to meet growing demand over the next decade.

Meanwhile, the EU estimates that the bloc will need up to 18 times more lithium and five times more cobalt in 2030 to power electric cars and battery storage.

“As consumers we can all play our part in increasing supply by recycling all of our end-of-life devices,” said Mr Donovan.

WEEE Ireland is a not-for-profit organisation that manages the collection of household electronic waste, old batteries, lighting and solar equipment around the Republic.