Recovery of rare earths

13th June 2011

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New research reveals how Europe can better manage its use of rare earth metals

Research for the Environment Agency, the EU LIFE programme and European Pathway to Zero Waste looking at the technical feasibility and commercial viability of recycling 14 critical raw materials has identified 10 ways to recover them and reduce Europe’s dependence on imports.

The potential solutions advanced by analysts Oakdene Hollins include: reusing landing gear (beryllium) and super-alloys in engines in the aerospace industry; removing and recycling rare earth magnets in hard disk drives; and improving the collection of portable Li-ion batteries to allow recovery of the cobalt and graphite content.

Recovery and recycling can only partly satisfy soaring demand, however.

“We found that a good proportion of seven materials, including indium, tungsten and the rare earths, can be recycled,” says project leader Adrian Chapman at Oakdene Hollins, “but growing demand forecast for their use in electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar photovoltaics means that only a portion of world supply can be met by recycling.”

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