Starting today, your new mantra is Reuse, Recycle, Remanufacture and all of your sourcing efforts revolve around Design for Recycle because the raw materials your supply chain runs on are running out faster than oil and fresh water.
As per this recent article over on BBC Future on what is the world’s scarcest material, China, which produces up to 90% of the world’s rare earth metals that are vital in electronics production claims that its mines might run dry in just 15-20 year. At current utilization rates, we could be out of silver in 20 years (which is only good news if current lore is correct and you are a werewolf), platinum in 15 years (which is bad news for aspiring musicians everywhere), and indium, used in electroluminescent panels, LEDs, and semiconductors, in as little as 10 years!
Why? Because we don’t reuse, recycle, and remanufacture. Currently, US residents recycle a mere 25% of TVs and Computers and less than 10% of movie phones — which is where the majority of the rare earth metals mined every year end up! If we reclaimed all of the metals that went into all of the electronics we produced, it would likely be at least a century before we’d have to worry about running low on materials, as we’d only have to mine to meet incremental demand.
So if you think rare earth metals are expensive now, think about how expensive they are going to be as supply becomes even more restricted! Until SpaceX and Virgin Galactic have solved the everyday problems of space flight, merge to form Jupiter Mining Corporation, and build Red Dwarf, you’re going to have three choices:
- Completely switch product lines to something that doesn’t require rare earth metals — like fashion or low-tech household goods,
- Pay the ever increasing premium until your customers can’t absorb it and you go down with the corporate ship, or
- Spearhead a reuse, recycle, and remanufacturing effort with your customer and supply community to reclaim as many rare earth metals as you can and reduce your newly mined raw material requirements to the point where they can double in price and not affect your operating cost.
Obviously, choices #1 and #2 will both result in your position, and you, becoming a thing of the past — so unless you’re looking for a career change, only a Smeghead would choose anything but option #3.