A new rare earth metals recycling facility has been established at the University of Birmingham.  Established at a cost of EUR $4 million, the new pilot plant will focus on recycling magnets.  Above all, hard drives, appliances and electric vehicles are the prime sources for recycled magnets.   The objective is to locate and isolate neodymium, boron and iron from the recycled materials.  The pilot facility was funded as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 innovation grants programme. It has the capacity to produce produce powders that can produce 20 tonnes of recycled magnets.  Importantly, unless this recycling occurred the material would go to landfill.

Rare earth metals robotic sorting Line

Importantly, a robotic sorting line will extract the rare earth magnets from scrap.  Recycling facilities will then extract the metal alloy powders.  UK, Germany and Slovenia will use these powders to create recycled magnets.   An innovative part of the new plant is the use of hydrogen to break down magnetic metal alloys into a powder.   The collection of the powder from the recycled components saves time and money.  Furthermore, the new process can also handle multiply items at a time.   The next decade should see exponential growth in the demand for these rare metals.

Professor Allan Walton, one of the inventors of the new rare earth metals recycling process, sees a bright future for the new industry.  Practically every application that uses electricity to produce motion relies on rare earth magnets.  Professor Walton believes rare earth metals  currently underpin global industries that are worth more than $1 trillion. In order to realise the potential this industry affords we need to continue to invest in the development of cost-efficient technologies.  Hence this will ensure the viability of recycling in the long-term.

The Recycal group has embarked on a major investment in e-waste with the creation of a new entity called ‘eco e-waste’.  As a specialist e-waste recycling company, it will focus on recycling of electronic products.  Old laptops, computers, mobile phones and televisions will be key product groups for collection and recycling.


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