People in the UK are storing away as many as 40 million electronic devices in their homes, many of which include valuable elements that are becoming increasingly rare and are being wasted as the gadgets sit in drawers gathering dust.

Mobile phones by themselves contain many precious materials, including gold, and the natural sources of six of these materials are expected to be depleted within the next 100 years.

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) surveyed over 2,000 people to determine how much old tech they were stockpiling, and 45% of the respondents said that they had up to five unused devices in storage.

Laptops and mobile phones were among the most common items that are being left lying around and not being used.

Most of those surveyed said that they had not planned to recycle them, but 59% stated that they would have made more of an effort to recycle them had they known the devices contained such valuable materials.

Among the materials in the devices is indium, which is a vital component of touch screens because it is transparent and is an excellent conductor of electricity. The devices also contain so-called “conflict elements”, such as gold, tin, tantalum and tungsten, which are found in areas where child labour and conflicts are often a customary part of the mining process.

“We need action now – from governments, manufacturers and retailers – to make reuse and recycling much easier, and we must enable a new generation of chemistry talent to help,” said Robert Parker, RSC’s chief executive. “The UK has a tremendous opportunity to become a world leader and set an example for other nations to follow.”