Report: Japan to launch recycling program for 13 rare metals from small appliances and consumer electronics
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.