Report: Japan to launch recycling program for 13 rare metals from small appliances and consumer electronics
12 December 2010
The Nikkei reports that Japan’s government plans to create a recycling program for devices such as mobile phones and game consoles in an effort to secure supplies of 13 rare metals essential for manufacturing high-tech products. Japan currently has laws for mandatory recycling of large appliances and automobiles; however, there are no rules for recycling mobile phones and other such devices, which contain relatively large amounts of rare metals.
Technologies for extracting rare metals from used home appliances have not yet been fully developed, so recycling operations often are not economically viable. The government intends to provide financing if necessary, but it may not support recycling technologies that it believes are far from becoming practical. Lithium, indium, manganese and platinum are among the 13 rare metals that the government hopes to recover. It plans to designate small appliances that use such metals as subject to recycling. About 10-20 types of devices are on a list of candidates, including digital cameras, camcorders, DVD players and microwave ovens.
Global demand for rare metals is certain to grow sharply in line with increased sales of environmentally friendly cars and other products. According to some estimates, demand for lithium will surge 203-fold and demand for manganese will jump 161-fold from current levels in 2020.
In September, China sharply cut exports of rare-earth elements. With 97% of its rare-earth imports coming from China, Japan is now hunting for other sources.
In principle, the indium and gallium in a worn-out laser can be used to make a new laser.
In practice, I have to wonder if the cost of extracting it and the purity of the results are going to be competitive.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 12 December 2010 at 08:53 AM
Great! Necessity is the mother of conservation.
Cost effective or not, China has halted export of key rare metals, and have garnered world-wide resources to themselves by investing in and signing exclusive contracts with many mines in South America and Australia, as well as petroleum supply is Africa. The prices of rare metals will have to go up.
Posted by: Roger Pham | 12 December 2010 at 09:10 AM
This makes you wonder why they did not do this 50++ years ago.
Posted by: ToppaTom | 12 December 2010 at 02:12 PM
Japan has almost no mineral resources but managed to become one of the world's great powers. They are resourceful and make it happen when it comes to the future of their country.
Posted by: SJC | 12 December 2010 at 09:11 PM