Recycling of Raw Materials Requires the EU's Long-term Commitment (cepInput)


Access to rare metals is crucial for the success of the energy transition. Recycling of these metals represents the missing link in the European Green Deal - environmentally friendly and free of resource limitations. The Center for European Policy (cep) has examined the recycling potential of permanent magnets used in wind power and e-mobility. The result: obstacles still outweigh the benefits.


"Recycling can ultimately resolve the tension between climate neutrality and supply security by sourcing the necessary raw materials for green technologies, such as lithium and rare earth metals, from environmentally friendly EU-based and theoretically inexhaustible sources. However, this will require long-term commitment by the EU," says cep expert André Wolf.

According to Wolf, obstacles are still predominant. Critical raw materials have only been partially commercially recycled so far. This is due to several obstacles. End products are used for extended periods before they can be recycled. Additionally, there are technical problems and a lack of transparency in magnet dismantling. Moreover, the technologies themselves present obstacles due to uncertain development paths and high costs.

The cep expert recommends that Brussels promptly introduces obligations to create information interfaces between actors in the supply chains. This would reduce uncertainty about product properties and help increase collection and dismantling rates. Also, a novel bonus scheme should be introduced to compensate recycling companies for the initial high costs of recycling during a transition phase. The scheme should involve competitive tenders to limit costs and promote the selection of sustainable recycling processes. "Technological openness in the design of support systems will be a key principle for permanent magnet recycling," emphasizes Wolf.