Today I’ll be presenting about e-waste on the Penn campus for my former department. Penn folks are invited, but I don’t think it’s open to the public just because of space considerations. As usual, I’ll be talking about how e-waste came to be such a problem and why recycling is not simply the environmentally just thing to do, but also a smart hedge against volatile commodities markets. I’ll be making the argument that any country that wants to be a serious player in tech manufacturing ought to work on making new electronics out of old electronics.
I’ve done a little bit of reading to catch myself up on the changes in the rare earth market and e-waste landscape since I finished my capstone project. I found that the rare earth shortage I wrote about has lead manufacturers to find ways to use less of them in the past six months, and now prices have dropped quite a bit. They are still something like 8-12 times higher than they were a few years ago, but this new volatility has investors and mining companies on the move yet again. This kind of instability doesn’t seem like a tenable foundation for a major industry. We’ll see what happens next.