Our plastics are loaded with rare-earth materials, and scientists don’t know why

Read the full story in Fast Company.

Praseodymium. Dysprosium. Neodymium. These are the extremely precious, rare-earth materials that are inside every iPhone and similar electronics. To acquire them is not just costly, but has led to incredible levels of environmental destruction.

Yet scientists have just discovered that rare-earth materials can actually be found in everyday consumer plastics—including water bottles, children’s toys, yogurt containers, and cosmetic cases. Our disposable plastics are filled with very small amounts of the earth’s most finite treasures.

“The irony is they’re extremely valuable,” says Andrew Turner, an associate professor in environmental sciences at the University of Plymouth, who led the study. “They’re critical elements for modern technology. And yet we’re finding that they’re becoming contaminants.”

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