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E-scrap recycling vision for Taiwan

Taiwan – With a more mature recycling technology expected to emerge in the near future, Taiwan might be well-equipped to process electronic waste in the coming decade, according to Ma Hsiao-kang, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the National Taiwan University.

Rare earth metals such as lutetium and terbium are helping to shape modern-day industry, Professor Ma stated at the recent Electronics Recycling Asia conference, citing their strong influence in the area of low-carbon energy technologies.

He told delegates in the Chinese city of Guangzhou that Taiwan spends around US$ 276 million every year to facilitate exports of ‘€˜high-tech garbage’€™ meant for recycling. ‘€˜We are talking about huge market potential because not many countries can process such waste,’€™ Professor Ma concluded.

Instead of allowing this large volume of e-scrap to leave the country, the island nation would do well to anticipate the upcoming advancement in recycling by opting to process these products on home soil. Professor Ma said such measures would free up millions of dollars to invest in, for example, establishing a solid industry for importing e-scrap from other countries and refining the much-needed rare earth elements.

The Taiwan academic recognised that extraction and recycling techniques for rare earth elements have been limited to ‘€˜a relatively minor scale’€™ to this point and so a bolder approach is required to turn his vision into a ‘€˜commercial reality’€™, he said.

Meanwhile, Professor Christian Ekberg from the Sweden-based Chalmers University of Technology added: ‘€˜It remains difficult to separate rare earths – such as lanthanides – from other materials. Technology will not automatically catch up.’€™

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