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Everything You Need to Know About Rare Earth Metals Recycling

Rare Earth Metals

Rare earth elements are essential to contemporary life, but one day we might run out of time to keep up with the rising demand.

These 17 metallic elements are essential components of computer displays, cell phones, other electronics, tiny fluorescent lamps, medical imaging devices, lasers, fiber optics, pigments, polishing powders, industrial catalysts, and a long list of other products due to their special qualities. In particular, rare earth is crucial to the development of renewable energy technology, electric vehicles, high-powered magnets, and rechargeable batteries that will help the world transition to a low- or zero-carbon future.

In 2021, nearly 32 times as much rare earth was mined as it was in the middle of the 1950s, at 280,000 metric tonnes. Furthermore, the demand will only rise. According to researchers, by 2040, we'll require up to seven times as many rare mounds of earth as we have right now.

It won't be easy to satisfy that hunger. Concentrated deposits of rare earth elements are not known to exist. To concentrate the rare earth, miners must extract enormous amounts of ore, subject it to physical and chemical procedures, and then separate the components. The process consumes a lot of energy, uses hazardous chemicals, and frequently produces a small quantity of radioactive waste that needs to be disposed of properly. Let’s take a look at all about rare earth metals recycling.

What is Rare Earth Metals Recycling?

Rare metals Recycling is the process of extracting rare earth elements (REEs) from waste items and end-of-life products, then processing and repurposing them. These elements, a collection of 17 metallic elements with comparable chemical properties, are essential for the manufacture of various high-tech items, such as computers, cellphones, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and military hardware. Recycling can help conserve these limited resources and lessen the environmental impact of mining activities because REEs are difficult to get and mining for new ones can be extremely risky and expensive.

The word "rare" in this set of elements' names is really a little deceptive because, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, they are "relatively abundant in the Earth's crust." However, the fact that these metals are mixed together with numerous other minerals in varying amounts in the ground makes extraction difficult.

First-round processing of the raw ores results in concentrates, which are then transported to another location to be separated from low-purity rare earth elements. These facilities carry out intricate chemical reactions, most frequently solvent extraction, which involves passing dissolved materials through a large number of liquid-filled chambers to separate different elements or compounds. This process may be repeated hundreds or even thousands of times.

What is Driving Force Behind Rare Earth Metals Recycling?

The demand for electronic devices brought on by the population's rising disposable income is projected to fuel the expansion of the world market for recycling rare earth metals. Teenagers' use of technological devices has been steadily rising.

Additionally, the need for higher-speed internet is necessary for improved global communications. Additionally, customers rely substantially on these gadgets. Only a few businesses employ rare earth metals in manufacturing, although Apple has used cobalt, recycled tungsten, recycled gold, and rare earth elements.

The market is expanding as a result of the shift in emphasis toward the development of green technology. The use of rare earth metals to reduce carbon emissions is one of the key factors. While employing green energy does contribute to a decrease in the consumption of fossil fuels, it also increases demand for permanent magnets that contain considerable amounts of rare earth metals.

Numerous companies are looking to tap this potential opportunity. For instance, a deal to build a plant for the separation of light rare earths in the US was signed by Lynas Rare Earths Ltd. and the US government in February 2021. The goal of the agreement is to strengthen the company's position in the US market.

What Are the Advantages of Rare Earth Metals Recycling?

Recycling rare earth metals can offer several advantages, including:

  • Recycling rare earth metals can significantly reduce the demand for new mining activities that may result in environmental danger and destruction. This reduces the environmental damage caused by mining and toxic e-waste.

  • Rare earth metals are non-renewable resources, so recycling can help keep the supply of these materials steady.

  • Energy savings: Recycling rare earth metals requires a lot less energy than extracting and using fresh materials from the ground.

  • Cost savings: Recycling has the potential to be more cost-effective than mining and processing fresh materials when it comes to employing rare earth metals in production.

  • Increased supply security: As the demand for rare earth metals rises globally, recycling can offer more security advantages, especially in areas with restricted access to these resources.

  • Economic growth is possible as a result of recycling because it can result in new jobs being created in the recycling sector.

  • The benefits of recycling rare earth metals can be evident in the creation, processing, and use of vital components, such as magnets, that benefit from these elements' special characteristics.

Are Rare Earth Metals Recycling Really Hard to Have Your Hands On?

The rare earth metals recycling industry is projected to have growth barriers due to the high costs necessary to extract rare earth metals from mixes. Many companies hunt for new suppliers when the price of raw materials unexpectedly rises in order to reach their revenue targets.

As a result, resources are obtained from nations with a lower cost of living. When changing raw material suppliers, there is a significant risk of upsetting the supply chain. Contrary to other precious and nonferrous metals, rare earth elements are not traded on commodities markets.


Despite enormous potential benefits, recycling rare earth elements (REE) is still insufficient. While various studies have found that recycling REEs is feasible, recycling procedures for bulk metals are well established, and it is conceivable to predict and support the establishment of value chains based on the recovery and recycling of rare earth. To lessen reliance on Chinese rare earth supplies and meet the rising demand for these vital commodities, governments, and businesses are focusing support for domestic production, recycling, and R&D. Overall, it can be said that recycling rare earth metals is crucial for a reliable and secure supply of these vital components.

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