Mapping the flows and stocks of permanent magnets rare earth elements for powering a circular economy in the UK

Hsu, Wan-Ting; Petavratzi, Evi; Zils, Markus; Einarsson, Stefán; Morasae, Esmaeil Khedmati; Lysaght, Oliver; Hopkinson, Peter. 2024 Mapping the flows and stocks of permanent magnets rare earth elements for powering a circular economy in the UK. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 47. 37-46.

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A transition towards renewable energy and transport electrification requires a high demand for rare earth elements (REE). China's dominance in REE makes the supply chains vulnerable for REE-consuming countries. The UK is one of the only three major refining plants outside of China, and it has, therefore, an active role in the global REE supply chain. In addition, the UK recycling capacity of REE permanent magnets is in development. Understanding REE flows and stocks is required both for scaling up upstream refining capacity and for the recycling projects that are currently in commercial development. This study developed a material flow model of REE in NdFeB magnets used in electric vehicles and wind turbines, taking the UK (2017–2021) as a case. Results show that the UK is a net importer (1238 t of REE in REE compounds, 7787 t of REE in NdFeB magnets) and has a highly fragmented value chain. A significant amount of the REE remains in stocks, whilst most end-of-life REE-containing components were not recovered. Substantial data challenges cause a lack of traceability across the global REE supply chain. This needs to be addressed in order to enhance knowledge of how these REE are utilised. The proposed model and policy interventions can be applied to other countries to improve traceability and circularity.

Item Type: Publication - Article
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ISSN: 23525509
Date made live: 08 May 2024 13:43 +0 (UTC)

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