ICT for Sustainability - The Challenge of Making It Real

Patrick Wäger

Thursday, February 14








Scarce metals as raw materials for ICTs: Do we care enough?

The expected increase in the use of scarce metals for “emerging technologies” intended to contribute to a transition towards a more sustainable society has raised concern regarding the short-, medium- and long-term supply with these metals. Recent studies have shown that in the short- and medium term a main factor affecting supply security of scarce metals is the concentration of mining and refining on a few countries and companies, in particular. While from a strategic perspective this calls for a demonopolization of supply, a sustainable use of scarce metals, which requires interventions both on the supply –and the demand side, has to go well beyond. On the supply side, materials efficiency, materials recovery and environmentally and socially responsible production processes have been identified as major cornerstones for a more sustainable use of scarce metals. On the demand side, possible interventions include increasing the product lifetime, e.g. by reuse of products and components, and changing consumption patterns towards more sufficiency. In the long run our goal should be to keep scarce metals that are not compatible with ecosystems within the technosphere, and to find more abundant substitutes that are compatible with ecosystems at least for those scarce metals that cannot be kept within the technosphere.




Patrick Wäger is a senior scientist at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa). He studied chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zurich, and philosophy at University of Zurich, and holds a PhD degree in environmental sciences. In his present research he addresses issues related to the recovery of raw materials from end-of-life products, with special focus on critical metals in emerging technologies.

Email: Patrick Wäger  (PatrickdotWaegeratempadotch)  



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