Some of the elements of the periodic table are at serious risk and their availability could become very limited. Discover how we could preserve them.
The European Chemistry Society has published a periodic table as a different appearance to the one we all study at school. While showing the same elements, each box has a different color and shape to show how much of each of the natural chemical elements remains.
In the table we find some elements marked in red next to others marked in orange, yellow, green or gray. As you have already guessed, those in red are the most threatened, specifically they are the elements of the periodic table in serious risk in the next 100 years.
Orange means that your risk increases because of increasing use, yellow implies that availability is limited and there is a future supply risk, and green that is available in abundance. Thus, there are some elements that are also marked in gray; this implies that they come from minerals in conflict.
Source: European Chemical Society
But why are there elements of the periodic table at risk? Possibly you are holding the culprit at this precise moment: your smartphone.
Of the 90 elements of the periodic table, 31 are used to make the mobiles that we use in our day to day. Of those 31 elements used to make smartphones more than half are threatened.
As explained by the European Chemical Society, in Europe about 10 million smartphones are thrown away or replaced per month. One of the most vulnerable elements used to manufacture mobiles is the Indian (In), used to manufacture the conductive film that covers the screen, among other technological uses. In their report, the researchers stress that if we maintain the current rate, the availability of the Indian could be limited to 50 years.
But beware, this does not mean that the natural chemical element is going to run out. However, having such limited availability would be difficult to access and prices would skyrocket.
What can we do to protect the threatened elements of the periodic table?
The main key to protect the elements of the periodic table is to recycle. We can take measures at different levels.
As individuals, we must be more aware of the environmental impact generated by our consumption habits. Ask yourself, do you really need to change your smartphone every year? Instead of throwing yourself to buy a new one every two times, consider repairing it and using it for a longer time.
So, when you really have to replace your electronic devices, make sure you do it correctly by recycling the materials properly.
At the political level there is also much to do. Recognizing the risks of the shortage of some elements is essential to encourage more recycling and try to establish a circular economy.