Lighting up the Periodic Table for Chemistry Week

November 19th, 2019

The School of Chemistry is working with the Royal Society of Chemistry to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Periodic Table of Elements – and highlight the need to recycle our electronic devices.

On Friday 22 November, a video highlighting the value of rare elements – and the need to reuse and recycle them – will be projected on to the side of the Trent Building from 5pm to 8pm.

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 universities spanning Southampton to St Andrews 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.

“We’re delighted to be able to celebrate this landmark year for the Periodic Table with the Royal Society of Chemistry in this way. Our University has so much chemical heritage; from our connections with the Boots family to the development of the Carbon Neutral Laboratory in collaboration with GSK. The University of Nottingham is also home to the very successful Periodic Table of Videos Youtube channel, which continues to excite the next generation of students who will explore the elements of the Periodic Table with us and who will work towards the development of green and sustainable chemical processes for the future. What a great way to celebrate this important year and the contributions Nottingham has, and continues to make, to our understanding of the elements,” said Professor Jon McMaster, Deputy Head of the School of Chemistry.

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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