Recycling tech 'should be mandatory' due to rare earth metals

·2-min read
[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] Rare-earth mine in Baiyun'ebo or Bayan Obo.

Baiyun'ebo or Bayan Obo is a mining town in Inner Mongolia in China. 

The mines north of town are one the largest deposits of rare earth metals found in the world.
Rare-earth mine in Baiyun'ebo, a mining town in Inner Mongolia in China. (Getty)

Recycling should be mandatory for printed circuit boards, lamps, disc drives and components in electric vehicles, a new EU-backed report has suggested. 

The CEWaste report said materials such as rare earth metals are frequently thrown away, despite concern over the future supply of the elements. 

The switch to green technology such as electric vehicles and solar panels, will require large amounts of the materials, the Guardian reported

The report suggested that printed circuit boards, hard disc drives, electric engines from e-bikes and scooters and fluorescent powders from lamps could be recycled. 

Pascal Leroy, the director-general of the WEEE Forum, which contributed to the report told the Guardian: “The supply of these materials is not assured – for example, some come from countries where there is political instability. 

“But some of these materials are critical. This should be regulated through mandatory standards.”

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The report by Cewaste - A Contribution to Future Critical Raw Materials Recycling - said that such recycling was barely commercially viable at present, according to Materials Recycling Week

The Cewaste consortium said: “Greater critical raw material recycling is a society-wide responsibility and challenge. The relevant authorities must improve the economic framework conditions to make it economically viable.”

“An EU legal framework and certification scheme, coupled with broad financial measures, will foster the investments needed to make recycling critical raw materials more commercially viable and Europe less reliant on outside supply sources.

“Acceptance by the manufacturing and recycling industry is also needed, as the standards will only work when there is widespread adoption.”

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A report this year suggested that recycling and reuse would be key to helping governments hit emissions targets. 

The Circle Economy research urged governments to craft their COVID-19 economic recovery plans to boost recycling and reuse, estimating that adopting circular approaches in transport, housing and food could cut emissions by close to 40%.

In a circular economy, materials – such as metals, minerals and plastic – are recycled to cut back on waste and pollution harming the Earth’s environment and climate.

Only 8.6% of the 100 billion tonnes of materials utilised each year are put back into service, according to Amsterdam-based social enterprise Circle Economy.

Dutch environment minister Stientje van Veldhoven said: “What we need to get out there, with much more force, is the incredible importance of a circular economy as an instrument to reach our climate goals.”

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