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The Mine of wheels

The volume of steel may be reducing in vehicles but high value materials are on the increase, and not just in the cats!
That’s how Becky Berube, Umicore’s North American Commercial Manager described end of life vehicles (ELVs) at the CARS show earlier in the year. And, it’s not surprising when 65% of world wide demand for platinum, palladium, and rhodium comes from the auto sector, but the big question is, what’s in it for us?

As a bit of background, Umicore are a global player in the reclaiming and recycling of precious metals, with facilities in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. You may be thinking, oh, they refine the spent auto catalyst and return the metals or their value, but there is a lot, lot more in the ‘mine on wheels’ and its getting bigger every day.

There’s no denying that the CAT is a good source of revenue and their recycling creates the lion’s share of the 20% of new platinum, palladium, and rhodium which comes from recycled sources. But, with the volumes of hybrids and the future potential of electric vehicles on the horizon, spent batteries are also a potential source of income.

We all know about the lead acid batteries that are well catered for but the nickel metal hydride batteries found in hybrid assemblies and the lithium ion (Li-ion) found in EVs contain many rare earth elements and high value metals and potential growth of these markets in the future is substantial.

Umicore Battery recycling
Batteries and electronic components are pointing to a new source of revenue for the vehicle dismantler.
And there’s more; what about all the electronics, circuit boards and LEDs. These contain materials such as bismuth, tellurium, silicon, indium, gallium, arsenic, selenium, germanium all antimony. These may not be your run of the mill ferrous and non ferrous and the volumes are much lower, but many of these are high value materials and also rare which makes the need to recycle all the greater.

Hopefully, you will be asking yourself, “Do I generate enough volume to process a lot of this material?“ In Umicore’s case they are ask for:
1500 units of scrap catalytic converters (both ceramic and foil/metallic)
Full container load of circuit boards that have been dismantled – or some combination of converters and circuit boards.
HeV batteries: You need to know the model and/or chemistry of the batteries and get them to one of the dismantling facilities.

With metals prices on the fall, this looks like a developing area. If you would like further details, email Becky Berube at Umicore or visit their website. Don’t be put off that Becky is USA based, the company is global with processing facilities much closer to home.

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