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Recycling rare earth metals from batteries

Umicore and Rhodia have announced the first recycling program for rare earth metals from Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries. The program is expected to commence towards the end of 2011. Nickel and iron will be separated from the rare earths at Umicore’s battery recycling plant in Hoboken (Belgium). After separation the rare earths will be processed into a high grade concentrate that will then be refined and formulated into rare earth materials at Rhodia’s plant in La Rochelle (France). Click here for the full media release.
The main use of NiMH batteries is in rechargeable AA and AAA batteries. A typical NiMH battery contains around 7% of rare earth elements including cerium (Ce), lantheum (La), neodynium (Nd) and praseodynium (Pr).
The United Nations Environment Program’s status report on recycling rates for metals (2011) estimated that these rare earth metals are currently recycled at rates of less than 1%.
Rare earth metals are critical to the manufacture of high technology products including wind turbines, electronic consumer goods, nanotechnologies and batteries.