Challenges of recycling multiple scarce metals: The case of Swedish ELV and WEEE recycling
Journal article, 2019
Cars and electronic products are characterised by high metal complexity. Meanwhile, recycling industries are not fully aligned with this complexity, leading to losses of unique scarce metal resources. By utilising the technological innovation system framework we identify, and discuss implications of, factors that impact on recycling of some precious (gold, palladium, silver) and minor metals (gallium, tantalum) in printed circuit boards (PCBs) present in Swedish end-of-life cars (ELVs) and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). We conclude that while precious metals from WEEE PCBs are currently recycled, recycling precious metals from ELV PCBs will likely remain a challenge in the near-term due to recycling being blocked by the material composition of ELV waste, design of waste legislation, and by accumulated capabilities and business models in current recycling industries. However, some of these blocking factors are open to direct influence from national policymakers or industry actors and may thus be alleviated more easily. In contrast, recycling minor metals from ELV or WEEE PCBs will likely remain challenging also in the long-term due to a larger set of blocking factors. Alleviating these may require a substantial portfolio of metal-specific policies at national and supra national levels supporting the build-up of entirely new recycling value chains.
Technological innovation system (TIS)
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)
End-of-life vehicle (ELV)