Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Recycling Rare Metals

AYRES Robert U., VILLALBA MENDEZ Gara, TALENS PEIRO Laura
Recycling Rare Metals in Handbook of Recycling: State-of-the-art for Practitioners, Analysts, and Scientists Elsevier (2014) 27-38

The industrial system now utilizes many more elements, especially rare metals, than was the case even a half century ago. Most are not mined for themselves but are obtained as by-products or “hitchhikers” of the more familiar industrial metals, such as iron, aluminum, copper, nickel, and zinc. This imposes a limit on the production of by-product metals. But in some cases, demand may increase much faster than new supply. This suggests a need for recycling. But the uses of these metals are often in products, such as cell phones, that are mass-produced but where the amount in each individual product is very small. Some uses are also inherently dissipative. This makes recycling very difficult in principle. It constitutes a serious challenge for the future economy. Prices will rise.