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Data availability and the need for research to localize, quantify and recycle critical metals in information technology, telecommunication and consumer equipment

: Chancerel, Perrine; Rotter, Vera Susanne; Ueberschaar, Maximilian; Marwede, Max; Nissen, Nils F.; Lang, Klaus-Dieter


Waste management & research 31 (2013), No.10, Supplement, pp.3-16
ISSN: 0734-242X
ISSN: 1399-3070
ISSN: 1096-3669
International Solid Waste Association (World Congress) <2013, Vienna>
Journal Article, Conference Paper
Fraunhofer IZM ()

The supply of critical metals like gallium, germanium, indium and rare earths elements (REE) is of technological, economic and strategic relevance in the manufacturing of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). Recycling is one of the key strategies to secure the long-term supply of these metals. The dissipation of the metals related to the low concentrations in the products and to the configuration of the life cycle (short use time, insufficient collection, treatment focusing on the recovery of other materials) creates challenges to achieve efficient recycling. This article assesses the available data and sets priorities for further research aimed at developing solutions to improve the recycling of seven critical metals or metal families (antimony, cobalt, gallium, germanium, indium, REE and tantalum). Twenty-six metal applications were identified for those six metals and the REE family. The criteria used for the assessment are (i) the metal criticality related to strategic and economic issues; (ii) the share of the worldwide mine or refinery production going to EEE manufacturing; (iii) rough estimates of the concentration and the content of the metals in the products; (iv) the accuracy of the data already available; and (v) the occurrence of the application in specific WEEE groups. Eight applications were classified as relevant for further research, including the use of antimony as a flame retardant, gallium and germanium in integrated circuits, rare earths in phosphors and permanent magnets, cobalt in batteries, tantalum capacitors and indium as an indium–tin-oxide transparent conductive layer in flat displays.