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51recyclinginternational.com | July/August | 2020
Mugerman adds with a laugh. ‘Factor
in the cost of logistics, paperwork etc.
and it’s simply not worth it. Sure, we
appreciate people caring enough to
find out what to do next, but consum-
ers are really not the target group
However, things would look different
if Geomega could direct Joe and his
friends to a local collection point.
‘Then more volume will start to trickle
into a central location and the ball will
start rolling for recyclers.’
He cites another challenge that
involves both consumers and busi-
nesses. ‘What is the first concern
when discarding your old computer,
laptop or phone? Our privacy. We
don’t want our stuff to end up on the
street.’ Mugerman points out that
data destruction is presented as the
perfect answer but the quickly grow-
ing market is sending devices straight
into big shredders. ‘It’s not just the
data that is destroyed, it’s everything.’
‘For instance, this very Zoom call
between us is connecting us via a data
centre backed by hundreds of hard
drives, perhaps more. I know data
centres tend to call shredder services.’
Alternatively, they simply store the
hard drives in a warehouse some-
where, not wanting to waste the valu-
able metals but unsure how to get
Geomega is hoping to educate the
public about this to retrieve these lost
magnets ‘not least because the circuit
boards contain aluminium and gold.
Hard drives offer lots of recycling
potential, not just for companies spe-
cialising in rare earths,’ the business-
man observes. ‘If precious metals
recyclers and other industry players
like us joined forces, we could sud-
denly see a previously complex and
unattractive waste stream make a lot
of recyclers a lot of money.’
eUropean projeCt offers new sCope
An EU-funded initiative has developed an innovative process to extract rare earth alloys from
magnetic waste. The REE4EU project involves two novel technologies. The first, ionic liquid
extraction, enables rare earth elements to be removed from waste streams in the form of
oxalates. The second, high temperature electrolysis, produces rare earth alloys after the cal-
cination of the oxalate mixtures from the first process.
‘The beauty lies in the tailored electrolysis process, as it eliminates the individual rare earth
element-oxides or halide separation and conversion steps existing in the primary mining
Chinese processing route,’ explains project coordinator Ana Maria Martinez, senior research
scientist with Sintef Materials and Chemistry in Norway.
She says this allows the processing of waste from permanent magnets either during manufac-
ture or when they are spent. This produces an intermediate alloy containing rare earth ele-
This product is treated by a continuous process called ‘strip casting’ to obtain a rare earth
alloy for manufacturing permanent magnets, thereby achieving a closed-loop recycling pro-
Martinez argues that many single extraction steps are avoided, making the process much
more effective and environmentally sustainable. A ‘competitive’ closed-loop permanent mag-
net recycling process, from waste containing rare earths to a new product in the form of a
rare earth permanent magnet, has also been demonstrated as a pilot.
Researchers report the new technology reduces energy consumption by around 35% when
compared to primary production in China.
Geomega ceo Kiril Mugerman believes
once more volume will start to trickle
into a central location, the ball will
start rolling for rare earths recyclers.
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