University lights up to raise awareness of 'elements in danger'

The periodic table came to life above the Faculty of Science and Engineering

MMU Periodic Table

University lights up to raise awareness of 'elements in danger'

Manchester Metropolitan University lit up its Faculty of Science and Engineering last night in support of Chemistry Week (18-24 Nov), part of the International Year of the Periodic Table

The eye-catching display saw the periodic table come to life across the campus as it joined 11 universities across the UK to highlight a serious issue – the threat to a growing number of elements through a lack of recycling old tech devices.

Research carried out by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), in a recent Ipsos MORI survey, found that 51% of UK households have at least one unused electronic device – such as mobile phones, computers, smart TVs, MP3 players or e-readers – and 45% have up to five. Of these, 82% have no plans to recycle or sell on their devices after they fall out of use.

However, these abandoned electronics lying forgotten at the back of drawers harbour precious elements that are at risk of running out.

Now, chemistry and chemical scientists from a range of universities, including Manchester Metropolitan, have a crucial role to play in identifying new solutions, both in finding alternatives to these rare elements where possible, and in finding new, more effective ways to extract elements from used devices and recycle them.

Dr Lindsey Munro, Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “The periodic table is at the core of our chemistry teaching and research into advanced materials, fuel-cell technologies, medicines and the environment. As a leading university for sustainability, we wanted to raise awareness of the impact of tech waste with our students and partners in the local community, the people of Manchester and the North West, which is why we are supporting the Royal Society of Chemistry in this initiative.”

As Black Friday deals and the festive season approaches, the sales of new tech devices are expected to spike, prompting the Royal Society of Chemistry to encourage people to reuse their old devices, recycle them or donate them to recycling charities.

Robert Parker, CEO of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Mendeleev Periodic Table of Elements. Now, over a century and a half later, many of the elements discovered are in critical danger of running out.

“We’re really pleased to have the support of some the UK and Ireland’s leading institutions in bringing the importance of the message to life – literally highlighting the responsibility we have in ensuring our old devices are properly recycled.

“In the future, they could be needed for other technologies that we haven’t even discovered yet – for health, green energy, treating pollution and more.”

The RSC hopes the drive will highlight the urgent need for a Right to Recycle bill to be introduced for tech waste, making it quick and easy to dispose of unused devices.

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