Pssst…hey buddy, wanna buy some terbium? I got some going cheap for only $800,000 per ton.
Our desire for the latest electronic gadgets made from exotic materials such as terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium have made these relatively unknown substances a very hot commodity. So hot in fact that the Chinese government has called for a halt to shipments of these materials for export. How come? Because these so called “rare earth elements” are so rare that Chinese officials are worried that domestic demand will consume all current Chinese production in the near future. Why is this big news? Because China supplies 95% of the rare earth elements mostly from mines in Inner Mongolia. Without this supply expect prices to spike dramatically which will certainly affect the electronics industry as a whole.
Rare earth metals are used in everything from iPhone circuit boards to flat screen televisions. With increasing prices and rising demand one thing is certain, rare earth elements are about to get a lot more rare.
While this may spell higher prices for consumers it’s good news for those that recycle old electronics because those old circuit boards are about to get really valuable. Like any market when a resource become scarce people get more creative in the methods used to obtain the resource. And guess what, it’s a lot easier to find terbium in used electronics than heading to the mountains with a pick and a shovel.
This is good news for the environment and recyclers. In the past there wasn’t much demand for old electronics as a recyclable item, old and outdated electronics usually gathered dust in a garage until the owners finally got sick of looking at them and carted them off to the dump. With increasing prices for the rare earth metals that outdated electronics contain that old stereo or TV could become a hot item with recyclers. Using marketplaces like ecycler makes it easier to match up those who have electronics to recycle with those who recycle electronics. If you’re like most people you have at least one old piece of electronic equipment cluttering up your house or garage, try listing it on ecycler to save yourself the hassle of recycling/disposing of the item yourself?
A detailed look at the rare metal situation: The Telegraph