Honda will recycle rare-earth metals from batteries

Apr 19, 2012 by Nancy Owano report

(Phys.org) -- Honda Motor Co. this week made news with its announcement of a recycling breakthrough. The car maker, which manufactures hybrid vehicles, will start recycling rare-earth metals from the nickel-metal hydride batteries of its used hybrid cars on a mass-production basis.

Honda says its process move is a world-first--in that its decision does not merely involve a research experiment but rather a process that will be done on a basis at a central recycling plant. The recycling will start very soon; Honda says the work is to begin at the end of this month. The process allows for the recovery of more than 80 percent of the used in the nickel-metal hydride batteries. The process involves extractions coming from used batteries from Honda hybrids at Honda dealers inside and outside Japan.

The technology is a result of the company’s collaboration with Japan Metals & Chemicals (JMC), a company based in Tokyo. The press announcement carries a simple diagram of the recycling flow between dealers and factory, but with few details about how the process actually works.

Economists, however, saw no mystery in what the Honda move means in the marketplace. According to reactions from SmallCap Network, the high market prices of rare earth metals suggest “the company could have got it right in terms of economics.” Reuters, likewise, said the announcement has significant financial ramifications, Rare earth materials are used in everyday household items, gadgets, and vehicles all over the world.

China produces about 95 percent of the world’s rare earth supplies. With its monopoly on production, China, noting its concerns about the environment and resources, issued export controls, which sent prices rising. For Honda, the goal was specifically to look to recycling to meet its rare-earth metal needs. Honda says the initiative won’t stop at batteries either. It intends to grow out a list of components from which the metals can be recycled.

In its press statement, said it intended “to further expand the recycling of rare earth metals in the future as the newly established process enables the extraction of rare earth metals from a variety of used parts in addition to nickel-metal hydride batteries.”

“Rare earth” metals refer to 17 metals that, as Popular Mechanics comments, “are mostly shunted off to a tacked-on lower line of the periodic table” yet are crucial to modern lifestyles, used in numerous applications for industrial, high-tech, and commercial products.

Explore further: Printing the metals of the future

More information: Press release

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User comments : 6

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dschlink
1 / 5 (2) Apr 19, 2012
Recycling the large batteries from cars makes economic sense. Trying to collect the batteries from cellphones, laptops and games, doesn't.
Eikka
4.5 / 5 (2) Apr 19, 2012
What happens to the other 20%?

With partial recovery like that, if you make ten new batteries, you can recycle the materials to make 45 batteries in total before you have too little material to make one, so the recycling allows for 4.5 times the use of the same material.

Russkiycremepuff
1 / 5 (1) Apr 19, 2012
I believe that most people will trade their old car batteries, but other type of battery is usually thrown in trash and not recycled. There is much ignorance in humans of what to recycle and what not. It might be best to start a campaign to give more information and to let people know where they may drop their recyclables so as not to pollute the planet and add to the landfills. Government agents can do this in every country if they do more than just pretend to work.
rwinners
not rated yet Apr 19, 2012
I agree, Russk..... Most electronic devices and their batteries are recycled at present, but there is not enough infrastructure and more important, education of the public.
Eikka
not rated yet Apr 20, 2012
There is much ignorance in humans of what to recycle and what not. It might be best to start a campaign to give more information and to let people know where they may drop their recyclables


I'd say it's not ignorace, rather, it's that people have to go out of their way to actually recycle anything. If you have a single laptop battery, will you drive 20 miles to the nearest recycling center that accepts it?

Or it might be a simpler matter. For example, HP runs a recycling program for their laser printer toner casettes. It used to be that all you had to do was take the box where the new casette came in, put the old one in and slap the provided sticker on top, then drop it in the mail.

But the last time I had anything to do with that stuff, they started to require you to sign in to an online service with your personal email adress, set up an account and passwords and all that jazz. Why?

I just said "F**k that" and dropped it in the trash.
Russkiycremepuff
1 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2012
Eikka, it might have been better for you to send a email to the HP and explain to them that you only wish to recycle the toner and that their way is just to complicated. It sound as if the HP is wanting more to see how many customers use their toners and enter the information to demographics, even though there must be only one type of toner for the model you are using. You might be able to make them change their methods, hopefully, unless they just don't want to pay the postage for the return of it.