For some metal applications, losses are unavoidable (Morley and Eatherley 2008), such as for coated materials (galvanizing) and additives such as Se in glass manufacture and Ge in PET bottle manufacturing. Would this be acceptable for scarce or expensive minor metals?
Such models indeed are already under discussion e.g., for fuel cell stacks in mobile applications. With a Pt loading for optimized stacks 2-3 times as high as in autocats, an effective closed loop system is the prerequisite for a mass application of fuel cell cars.
need to emphasize the collection, treatment, and recovery of all EoL products. Currently, collection targets (e.g., 4 kg WEEE/capita in the EU) do not stimulate this, and the (mass-based) recycling rates lead to irrecoverable losses of minor metals. Furthermore, high "recycling rate," as defined in the respective directives, does not mean anything (and does not contribute to sustainability) unless it can be correctly calculated/determined, if the collection rate is insufficient, and/or if scrap escapes recycling by dubious export practices.
International stakeholder cooperation along the entire life cycle needs to be improved if we are to optimize the interfaces between each part of the recycling chain as well as between the recycling chain and the manufacturers. Cooperation includes monitoring recycling processes along the entire chain to ensure environmentally sound management of the processes. As in manufacturing of complex products, recycling requires a division of labor, making use of specialization in pretreatment and metal recovery, and the corresponding economies of scale. Extended producer responsibility can be a suitable framework for this, but has not yet been used to its full potential. Control and enforcement of legislation by governments to prevent illegal export and non-compliant recycling processes are complimentary.
A holistic, global view on the system boundaries with the concept of a global recycling society in mind is necessary. Legislative measures can be counterproductive when the system boundaries are crossed. Prioritizing reuse above recycling in European legislation for EoL products with open life cycle structures means that reuse will take place in other parts of the world and that the final EoL product will most likely be discarded. Here, the social benefits of an extended lifetime compete with the loss of resources and potential negative impact on the environment.20
In conclusion, technology metals in complex high- and clean-tech products require high- and clean-tech processes/systems for their recovery. Such technologies are, in many cases, available, but have not been used effectively for the various reasons described in this chapter. If this is rectified, a better metal recovery during primary production and at product EoL is possible and can significantly move us along a path toward sustainability.
Since the end of2008, the financial crisis has resulted in a significant decline in metal prices. This has already led to the first closure of mines and smelters as well as to reduced exploration activities. It has also reduced the economic incentive for recycling EoL products, with the positive impact that (illegal) exports to Asia and Africa became less attractive (and indeed trading volumes in EoL electronics appear to have decreased). Still, there is a danger that less EoL material is handed into professional recycling chains and that treatment
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