Recycling Rates of Metals: A Status Report

Via The RFF Library Blog.

UN Environment Programme

[Yale Environment 360] A UN report says that less than one-third of metals are recycled at a rate of more than 50 percent worldwide, and many are hardly re-used at all, a trend that could jeopardize the emerging green technology sector. In a study of how 60 “inherently recyclable” metals are collected, processed and re-used, the report by the UN Environmental Programme found that 34 metals are recycled at a rate of less than 1 percent. Many of those metals are critical in the development of clean technologies, from the batteries that power hybrid vehicles to the magnets used in wind turbines. The report warned that the industry runs the risk of running into a shortage of some specialty metals, like tellurium and selenium, which are used for high efficiency solar cells. “In spite of significant efforts in a number of countries and regions, many metal recycling rates are discouragingly low, and a ‘recycling society’ appears no more than a distant hope,” the report says. The report urges improved product design that makes recycling easier; better waste management and recycling systems; and finding ways to discourage the developed world from putting unused, recyclable products in closets and drawers or into landfills.

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