Solvay opens two rare earth recycling units in France

27 September 2012 11:44  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Belgium-based chemical group Solvay on Thursday officially opened two rare earth recycling units in France in efforts to diversify its sources of supply and preserve resources.

The group said it has developed a process for recovering rare earths contained in end-of-life equipment such as low-energy light bulbs, batteries or magnets.

Solvay said the investment in the project, first launched in 2007, totals more than €15m ($19m).

"... rare earths play the role of 'vitamins' vital for the continuing development of new technologies, especially green technologies," said Du Hua, director of Solvay's Rare Earths Systems business unit.

"Global demand for rare earths is growing at more than 6% per year, making these elements a strategic raw material. Recycling allows us to develop a new source of supply, and we aim to become the benchmark European player in this area," he added.

Used light bulbs, rich in six different rare earths - lanthanum, cerium, terbium, yttrium, europium and gadolinium, are collected, sorted and processed by companies which recycle their different components (glass, metals, plastics, mercury), Solvay said.

The luminescent powders collected are then first of all shipped to Solvay's facilities in Saint-Fons, France, where the rare earth concentrate is extracted and subsequently moved to a separation plant in La Rochelle, Charente Maritime.

Once the rare earths have been separated, they are then reformulated into luminescent precursors that will be reused in the manufacture of new lamps, Solvay said.

($1 = €0.78)

By: Franco Capaldo
+44 (0)20 8652 3214

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