WRAP calls for WEEE recyclers to collect more rare-earth metals

Posted on 5th June, 2012

WRAP has called on WEEE recyclers to move away from shredding material in order to ensure valuable rare earth metals are not sent to landfill. In May, WRAP chief executive Dr Liz Goodwin claimed that ‘canny’ recyclers of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) could recover more high value material such as gold, silver, platinum and palladium which are dispersed during shredding and end up in landfill. According to Dr Goodwin the manufacturing sector’s vulnerability to shortages of rare earth materials could be avoided if more of the material can be retained during the recycling process.
She said: “Currently, most of our WEEE recycling is generally done by shredding. But while this method enables the capture of bulk metal and plastics, it doesn’t work for some of the raw materials that could be recovered.
“Shredding is popular as it’s cheap, and the outputs have strong overseas markets. But are we missing something here?
“These materials can be worth thousands of pounds per tonne. It may be technically feasible to recover these materials but the real question is whether the process can be economically viable and lead to a sufficient yield. We’re already working with some WEEE recovery operators to test the commercial viability of this approach.” She revealed that WRAP would be publishing information in the coming months in order to aid investment toward improving WEEE infrastructure to recover rare earth metals.