Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

The recycling of rare earths

The Recycling Cost-Benefit Equation One of the benefits of recycling rare earth metals from batteries is that a supply of recycled lanthanum should be more reliable than relying on virgin Chinese sources. Recycling also uses less energy and
emits less carbon dioxide than mining. The economics are less firm, but Caffarey said there is a financial justification for recycling rare earths.

Recycling rare earth metals from batteries American Recycler News, by Mark Henricks, July 12, Toyota has sold nearly 3 million Prius hybrid-drive automobiles, each of which contains a battery pack that has more than 20 lbs. of an exotic metal called lanthanum. Lanthanum, like most of the 17 so-called rare earth elements, primarily comes from China, which has
recently tightened export quotas. Special properties of rare earth metals make them highly useful for batteries, magnets and electric motors, and China wants to reserve them for its domestic industries.

Tension between rising demand for lanthanum, which has been infrequently used in products before now, and uncertain supply has created growing interest in finding ways to recycle the millions of batteries that will be coming out of hybrid and plug-in electric cars using nickel-metal hydride batteries. There are plenty of precedents.

Conventional lead-acid 12-volt automobile batteries are among the
globe’s most recycled products. The Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) said that more than 90 percent of the 100 million lead-acid
batteries replaced each year in the United States are recycled.
Lead-acid batteries are highly recyclable. Nearly all the lead can be
recycled into new batteries or other products. The sulfuric acid
electrolyte can be converted for use in fertilizer and elsewhere. The
cases, made of plastic, can also be recycled. In addition to well
established technology and processes for turning used batteries into
new products, there is a nearly universal collection system consisting
of retailers who sell new batteries.

Recycling of lithium used in batteries is not as widespread but is
still fairly well developed. Lithium, which is not a rare earth metal
and is primarily sourced from Chile rather than China, is also used in
many rechargeable batteries including some electric vehicles. …..
The Recycling Cost-Benefit Equation One of the benefits of recycling rare earth metals from batteries is that a supply of recycled lanthanum should be more reliable than relying on virgin Chinese sources. Recycling also uses less energy and
emits less carbon dioxide than mining. The economics are less firm, but Caffarey said there is a financial justification for recycling rare earths. While pricing for lanthanum is less clear than for nickel
and cobalt, which also are obtained from recycling batteries, that may
not always be the case.

“Who knows what the value of those materials is going to be in 10
years’ time,” Caffarey said. “I do believe it will be going up,
because we’re consuming more and more devices that need these
materials. So to be able to give these elements another life is
definitely of value.”

Regulatory obstacles to recycling are not a major problem at present,
especially in the U.S. where applicable regulations are almost
non-existent compared to Europe, according to Caffarey. “If there are
regulations in the U.S., they’re more on a state-by-state level than
across the nation,” he notes. “An unclear regulatory environment
doesn’t help industry develop something. So that could be a
barrier.”….
Right now, recycling of the rare earth contained in electric-drive
vehicle batteries is in its infancy. But indications are
electric-drive battery recycling will expand quickly, perhaps rivaling
the size and success of that of lead-acid batteries. Said Caffarey, “I
see in the coming years, a bright future for a recycling process that
allows recovery of the nickel and the rare earth.”
http://www.americanrecycler.com/0712/1632recycling.shtml

July 11, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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