Solvay opens two rare earth recycling units in France

Solvay opens two rare earth recycling units in France

11:26 AM, 27th September 2012
Solvay opens two rare earth recycling units in France
Solvay Group headquarters in Belgium.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM: Solvay has opened two rare earth recycling units in France. In order to diversify its sources of supply and preserve resources, the group has developed a process for recovering rare earths contained in end-of-life equipment such as low-energy light bulbs, batteries or magnets. This original recycling channel derived from the group’s research programme opens up new growth opportunities for Solvay’s “Rare Earths” activity.

The investment was approved in 2011, after four years for R&D and industrialization studies and site selection. Initially, the group will focus on low-energy light bulbs, which are rich in six different rare earths. Solvay is in a position to recycle these rare earths while preserving 100 per cent of their functional properties.

Used light bulbs are processed by specialized companies who recycle their different components. The luminescent powders are shipped to Solvay’s facilities - to Saint-Fons, where the rare earth concentrate is extracted and subsequently to La Rochelle, a plant that boasts unique expertise in separation technology unparalleled in Europe. Once the rare earths have been separated, they are then reformulated into luminescent precursors that will be reused to manufacture new lamps.

“Used in small quantities, rare earths play the role of ‘vitamins’ vital for continuing development of new technologies, especially green technologies. Global demand for rare earths is growing at more than 6 per cent per year, making these elements a strategic raw material. Recycling allows us to develop a new source of supply and we aim to become the benchmark European player in this area,” explained Du Hua, Director, Rare Earths Systems business unit, Solvay.

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