As the usage of specialty or “tech metals” grows with their ever-diversifying utilities, so do related supply issues. One of the most popular and most frequently mentioned options to address such challenges is recycling.
However, a Forbes Magazine piece points out that as Barbara Reck, research scientist at Yale University’s Center for Industrial Ecology, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, has found, there are a number of factors restraining recycling efforts for metals. Reck explains that while certain problems apply to all metals, specialty metals recycling in particular is fraught with challenges as they are generally used very sparingly in high-tech applications:
“In such applications, mixing of materials is extensive, separation technology is challenging, and the economics are often unfavorable because of the small amounts involved. The trend to use specialty metals is increasing, and given the short lifetimes of many electronic devices, end-of-life losses will also increase sharply soon unless better recycling management options are found.”
Ultimately, there are numerous very good reasons for recycling, but it is a far cry from being the silver bullet to alleviate supply concerns, as some would have you believe.
As part of a comprehensive mineral strategy focused on securing mineral supplies, recycling efforts should go hand in hand with a sound trade policy, and the exploration and development of domestic metals and minerals in their own rights, as well as byproduct recovery – which is the topic of the latest American Resources quarterly report entitled: “Through the Gateway. Gateway Metals and the Foundations of American Technology.”