Environment – Why Should Rare Earth Elements Be Recycled?
There Are Not Enough Rare Earth Elements for Cutting-Edge Industries
The term "rare earth" refers to a set of 17 chemical elements in the periodic table considered particularly rare compared to other metals found on earth. Today, most of these elements have become essential raw materials for cutting-edge products and applications such as electric vehicles, high-performance home appliances, computers and smart phones. As such, demand for rare earth elements is expected to increase considerably going forward.
However, a majority of the earth’s rare earth resources are not produced in Japan, meaning companies there have to rely entirely on imports. On top of this, supply has been exposed to constant instability. Amidst this, the world’s largest rare earth producer, China, launched export restrictions on these materials, causing prices to soar around the world.
As a result, today Japanese industry is faced with the important tasks of finding another supply source for rare earth elements other than China, developing alternative materials, and recycling, which involves recovering and reusing rare earth elements found in end-of-lifecycle products.