Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers call for specialty metals recycling

Date:
September 24, 2012
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
An international policy is needed for recycling scarce specialty metals that are critical in the production of consumer goods, according to researchers.

The sequence of the main steps involved in the recycling of metals.
Credit: Image courtesy of Yale University

An international policy is needed for recycling scarce specialty metals that are critical in the production of consumer goods, according to Yale researchers in Science.

"A recycling rate of zero for specialty metals is alarming when we consider that their use is growing quickly," said co-author Barbara Reck, a research scientist at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Specialty metals, which include rare earth elements such as indium, gallium and germanium, account for more than 30 of the 60 metals in the periodic table. Because they are used in small amounts for very precise technological purposes, such as red phosphors, high-strength magnets, thin-film solar cells and computer chips, recovery can be so technologically and economically challenging that the attempt is seldom made.

"Specialty metals are used in products in only small amounts, but their value typically does not provide enough incentive to invest in a complicated recovery process. Also, the technology to do so is untested," said Thomas Graedel, the study's other co-author and Clifton R. Musser Professor of Industrial Ecology.

The researchers said improved design for recycling, deposits on consumer goods, recycling targets for specialty metals and financial incentives for industry to apply state-of-the-art separation techniques and recycling technologies would improve metal recycling.

"Metals are infinitely recyclable in principle, but, in practice, recycling is often inefficient or essentially nonexistent because of limits imposed by social behavior, product design, recycling technologies and the thermodynamics of separation," said Reck.

The researchers said that modern technology has produced a conundrum. The more intricate the product and the more diverse the materials it uses, the better it's likely to perform but the more difficult it is to recycle.

The benefit to recycling metals, they said, includes the potential to reduce the extraction of virgin ores, thus extending the life of those resources. The environmental impacts of metal production are reduced substantially when recycled materials, rather than primary materials, are used, and recycling a metal is generally much more energy-efficient than acquiring it from a mine.

"Depending on the metal and the form of scrap, recycling can save as much as a factor of 10 or 20 in energy consumption," Graedel said. "The situation clearly calls for international policy initiatives to minimize the seemingly bizarre situation of spending large amounts of technology, time, energy and money to acquire scarce metals from the mines and then throwing them away after a single use."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. B. K. Reck, T. E. Graedel. Challenges in Metal Recycling. Science, 2012; 337 (6095): 690 DOI: 10.1126/science.1217501

Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Researchers call for specialty metals recycling." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120924175211.htm>.
Yale University. (2012, September 24). Researchers call for specialty metals recycling. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120924175211.htm
Yale University. "Researchers call for specialty metals recycling." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120924175211.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

Hundreds of Thousands Hit NYC Streets to Protest Climate Change

AFP (Sep. 22, 2014) Celebrities, political leaders and the masses rallied in New York and across the globe demanding urgent action on climate change, with organizers saying 600,000 people hit the streets. Duration: 01:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Inside London's Massive Sewer Tunnel Project

Inside London's Massive Sewer Tunnel Project

AP (Sep. 22, 2014) Billions of dollars are being spent on a massive super sewer to take away London's vast output of waste, which is endangering the River Thames. (Sept. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washed-Up 'Alien Hairballs' Are Actually Algae

Washed-Up 'Alien Hairballs' Are Actually Algae

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) Green balls of algae washed up on Sydney, Australia's Dee Why Beach. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Was The Biggest Climate March In History Underreported?

Was The Biggest Climate March In History Underreported?

Newsy (Sep. 22, 2014) The People's Climate March in New York City drew more than 300,000 people, possibly a record-breaking number. Was the march underreported? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins