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Solvay targets growth in rare earth recycling

France – International chemicals group Solvay is set to open two rare earth recycling facilities in France following an investment totalling more than Euro 15 million (US$ 19 million).

According to the Belgium-based group, it has developed a process for recovering rare earths contained in end-of-life equipment such as low-energy light bulbs, batteries and magnets which, it states, could ‘€˜open up new growth opportunities’€™.

Starting its rare earth project back in 2007, the chemical group’€™s focus was initially on low-energy light bulbs which contain no fewer than six rare earths – lanthanum, cerium, terbium, yttrium, europium and gadolinium. According to Solvay, it is now in the position to recycle them while preserving 100% of their functional properties.

‘€˜Used in small quantities, rare earths play the role of ‘€œvitamins’€ vital for the continuing development of new technologies, especially green technologies,’€™ remarks Du Hua, Director of Solvay’€™s Rare Earths Systems business unit.

But now global demand for rare earths is growing at more than 6% per year, these elements have become strategic raw materials, he observes. ‘€˜Recycling allows us to develop a new source of supply, and we aim to become the benchmark European player in this area,’€™ Mr Hua insists.

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