Recycling critical materials

7 Jun 2011

A new report has been published on 'The Feasibility of Protecting and Recovering Critical Raw Materials through Infrastructure Development in the South East of England'. It addresses concerns about the security of supply of raw materials critical to high technology or green economy applications.

The research analyses the technical feasibility and commercial viability of recycling 14 critical materials, and the potential to reduce the UK and European Union’s dependency on imports. A detailed mapping of the product supply chain and consultation of industry experts resulted in a number of potential opportunities to recover materials, including:

  • Aerospace: reuse landing gear and superalloys in engines.
  • Hard disk drives: remove and recycle rare earth magnets.
  • Batteries: improve collection of portable Li-ion batteries to recover cobalt and graphite.
  • Aluminium beverage cans: improve on-the-go collection to recycle magnesium.

'A good proportion of seven materials including indium, tungsten and the rare earths can be recycled,' said project leader Adrian Chapman, '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. This will help to ease pressure on primary production.'

Key recommendations to enable increased recovery include improved collection, advanced sorting techniques, new technologies and design for disassembly and reuse.


Further information

The full and summary reports

Government consultation on strategically important materials