Are scarce metals in cars functionally recycled?
Journal article, 2017
Improved recycling of end-of-life vehicles (ELVs) may serve as an important strategy to address resource security risks related to increased global demand for scarce metals. However, in-depth knowledge of the magnitude and fate of such metals entering ELV recycling is lacking. This paper quantifies input of 25 scarce metals to Swedish ELV recycling, and estimates the extent to which they are recycled to material streams where their metal properties are utilised, i.e. are functionally recycled. Methodologically, scarce metals are mapped to main types of applications within newly produced Swedish car models and subsequently, material flow analysis of ELV waste streams is used as basis for identifying pathways of these applications and assessing whether contained metals are functionally recycled. Results indicate that, of the scarce metals, only platinum may be functionally recycled in its main application. Cobalt, gold, manganese, molybdenum, palladium, rhodium and silver may be functionally recycled depending on application and pathways taken. For remaining 17 metals, functional recycling is absent. Consequently, despite high overall ELV recycling rates of materials in general, there is considerable risk of losing ELV scarce metals to carrier metals, construction materials, backfilling materials and landfills. Given differences in the application of metals and identified pathways, prospects for increasing functional recycling are discussed.
Material flow analysis