BRUSSELS (REUTERS)-Solvay an international chemical group committed to sustainable development is opening two rare earth recycling units in France. Solvay has developed a process for recovering rare earths contained in end-of-life equipment such as low-energy light bulbs, batteries and magnets.
The project was first launched in 2007, it required two years of research and development followed by two years of industrialization studies and on site selection. The investment of the project was approved in 2011. Solvay decided to focus on low-energy light bulbs because the recovery channel already existed. Light bulbs contain six different rare earths (lanthanum, cerium, terbium, yttrium, europium, and gadolinium). Solvay can recycle the light bulb while preserving 100 percent of its functional properties.
The process begins when used light bulbs are collected, sorted, and processed by specialized companies. These companies recycle their different components (glass, metals, plastics, mercury). The luminescent powders are shipped to Solvay's facility in Saint-Fons (Rhone-Alpes, France) where the rare earth concentrate is extracted. Than it is shipped to La Rochelle (Charente Maritime, France) where the rare earths are separated. Once the rare earths are separated, they are reformulated into luminescent precursors that will be reused in the manufacturing of new lamps.
Solvay has developed a large number of innovations used in flat screens, low-energy light bulbs, automotive pollution control, and high precision opticals. Solvay is headquartered in Brussels, it employs about 31,000 people in 55 countries and generates about USD 16.4 billion in net sales in 2011. Source: Solvay Launches Its Rare Earth Recycling Activity In France (Reliability: Medium)
Comment: Solvay is aiming to become a major player in the recycling of rare earths. Global demand for rare earths is growing at more than 6 percent per year. This makes the elements a strategic raw material.