Whenever modern societies face a growing day-to-day problem, there is often a technological solution on the horizon.
One such problem is the amount of waste that communities produce, which if anything is getting worse.
Households not only produce huge amounts of rubbish every day, much of it packaging, there is now the additional waste problem caused by the rapid scientific advances that make gadgets obsolete in no time.
Bulky products that are not easily dismantled such as washing machines and TVs are discarded en masse.
Smaller devices are not economically viable to fix when something goes wrong and they too are thrown on the scrap heap. Mobile phones from a decade ago seem like ancient history in the rapidly evolving world of mobile technology.
But now researchers in Edinburgh have made an exciting discovery – they think they can extract gold from dis-used phones.
Previously toxic chemicals were used to extract the precious metal but the researchers have found a method to extract it using a non-toxic compound.
This is significant, because up to 7% of the world’s gold is thought to be within electrical waste such as old phones and computers.
It is intriguing to learn that the Scottish research team believe that their discovery could help salvage some of the estimated 300 tonnes of gold used in electronics each year.
Other unforeseen technology breakthroughs have quickly had major economic impacts – shale and fracking technology (which Stormont has dismissed far too readily) are revolutionising energy calculations.
For all the many problems that the world faces, some brilliant but unsung scientists are working away on finding solutions to them in a laboratory somewhere, from Belfast to Brisbane, from Londonderry to Los Angeles.