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Scarce Metals in Conventional Passenger Vehicles and End-of-Life Vehicle Shredder Output

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posted on 07.04.2015 by Rolf Widmer, Xiaoyue Du, Olaf Haag, Eliette Restrepo, Patrick A. Wäger
Concurrent with the demand for cleaner, lighter, and more efficient vehicles, many scarce metals (SMs) are used in passenger vehicles because of their unique physical and chemical properties. To explore the recycling potential of these metals, it is important to understand their distribution in the vehicles as well as their fate at the vehicles’ end-of-life. However, this information remains very scattered and sparse. In this paper, we present a study investigating the distribution of 31 SMs in selected electrical and electronic (EE) components of conventional passenger vehicles and in the end-of-life vehicle shredder fractions from a shredder plant in Switzerland. The results of the chemical analyses show that the mass fractions of Co, Sn, Sr, Ta, Y, and Zr were dominant with >20 000 g/t in the selected EE components and Ag, Ga, Mo, Sb, Sn, Sr, and Zr with >50 g/t in the analyzed shredder fractions. The largest masses of 17 SMs were found in the shredder light fraction, which is incinerated in municipal waste treatment plants mainly in Switzerland; thus, these SMs are currently not recovered. The SM mass fractions in both the EE components and the shredder fractions were projected to their total masses in 100 hypothetical midrange passenger vehicles. The resulting mass balance showed a mismatch of >50% for 23 metals, which indicates other important SM sources such as alloys.

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