INTRODUCING THE METALS

BASE METALS

PRECIOUS METALS

TECHNOLOGY METALS

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Did you know? 75% of all aluminium ever produced is still in use.

Key uses:

  • Vehicle lightweighting
  • Beverage cans & other packaging
  • Buildings and construction

Industry figures:

  • 255,000 employees in Europe’s aluminium industry
  • 16% of world production, half from recycled sources
  • 53% reduction in GHG emissions since 1990

Recycling:

  • Over 90% of aluminium is recovered from buildings and transport, and 60% from packaging.
  • Recycling aluminium uses only 5% of the energy needed for the primary production.
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Did you know? Copper is the best conductor of electricity apart from silver

Key uses:

  • 60% of copper is used for electrical applications; including power distribution, renewables, telecommunications, transport
  • 40% of copper is used in non-electrical applications; including air conditioning, water distribution, architecture, aquaculture

Industry figures:

  • 50,000 employees in Europe’s copper industry
  • €45billion turnover per year
  • 44% of copper EU demand comes from domestic and industrial scrap (recycled sources)
  • 60% reduction in GHG emissions achieved since 1990

Recycling:

  • Up to 90% of all copper in European buildings and civil infrastructure is recycled
  • Overall, 70% of copper in end-of-life products is recovered
  • Recycling copper saves 85% of the energy needed for primary production
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Did you know? 99% of Europe’s lead-based car batteries are recycled at their end-of-life

Key uses:

  • Lead-based batteries, for automotive  and energy storage applications
  • Lead batteries, providing emergency power for mobile phone networks and IT infrastructure
  • Radiation protection in hospitals

Production:

  • Globally, 11 billion tonnes of lead gets produced each year
  • The world market for refined lead stands at $15 billion

Recycling:

  • Lead has one of the highest recycling rates of all materials in common use today
  • More than 95% of scrap lead sheet is collected and recycled – no lead goes to landfill
  • Europe and North America have battery recycling rates of close to 100%
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Did you know? 57% of all nickel ever produced is still in use

Key uses:

  • Stainless steel
  • Sustainable building and construction
  • Low-carbon transport
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electrical and electronic equipment

Industry figures:

  • Roughly 13% of the global nickel output originates from European nickel producers
  • The lifetime of nickel in building and construction is over 100 years
  • Nickel-containing products have high corrosion resistance and are fully recyclable, allowing less maintenance and more efficiency

Recycling:

  • Nickel containing products are fully recyclable at their end-of-life
  • Nickel has a recycling efficiency of 68% globally
  • Stainless steel products are recycled in part due to the valuable nickel they contain
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Did you know? We all need zinc to live – a recommended 10-15 mg/day

Key uses:

  • Galvanising, to protect steel from corrosion in cars and other applications
  • Bronze and brass production
  • Roofing and other architecture 

Key industry figures:

  • Globally, 10.6 million tonnes of zinc was produced in 2015
  • 13 zinc smelters are currently operating in Europe
  • 33% reduction in energy intensity since 1990

Recycling:

  • Zinc is recovered from residues, old roofing material and brass or steels scrap.
  • In Europe, 90% of rolled zinc is recovered and recycled at end-of-life
  • Recycling accounts for some 25% of the metal produced globally each year
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Did you know? A third of the world’s tin is used to stop corrosion in food & beverage cans

Applications

• Soldering in printed circuit boards
• Food and beverage cans, providing anti-corrosion coating
• Springs, gears and bearings

Production

• 25 million tonnes annual global production
• European production is now primarily from recycled material

 

Recycling

• Secondary tin accounts for 15% of world production
• In the recycling of tin cans, tin is recovered through electrolysis
• Tin is also recovered from solder alloy

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Did you know? Only 200,000 tonnes of gold have ever been produced – barely enough to fill four Olympic sized swimming pools

Applications

• Jewellery
• Wires and coatings in the electronics industry
• Dentistry

Properties

• One of the best conductors of heat and electricity, along with copper and silver
• A very soft metal, which usually must be hardened by alloying
• Can be beaten into semi-transparatne foil only 0.01 mm thick

Recycling

• Recycling accounts for 30% of global gold production
• Gold is recovered from electronics waste, jewellery production scrap and old jewellery
• It is also recovered as a by-product from the refining of other metals, such as copper

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Applications

• Relays and contacts in electronics applications
• Jewellery and silverware
• Photography, mirrors and dentistry

Properties

• A shiny white metals, more ductile and malleable than copper, but less so than gold
• Higher electrical and thermal conductivities than any other metal
• Presents a blistered surface when solidified in air, due to the release of dissolved oxygen

Recycling

• Recovered from the residues of copper, nickel and lead refining processes
• Also recovered from electronics waste and other industrial scraps

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Applications

• Car catalysts
• Jewellery
• Fuel cells
• Computer hard disks

Properties

• An attractive silver-white metal that is malleable, ductile and very heavy
• Generally hardened by alloying with iridium
• Catalytic properties

Recycling

• High-recycling rates from spent automotive catalysts
• Also recycled from old jewellery and electronics waste
• Significant volumes of platinum are used in closed-loop production processes, e.g. in glass manufacturing

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Applications

• Automotive catalysts
• Electricity and electronics
• A catalyst in the petrochemical industry
• Jewellery

Properties

• A white metal that resembles platinum.
• Has the lowest mass and the melting point of all the platinum-group metals (PGM).
• Capable of absorbing, at room temperature, 600 to 900 times its own volume of hydrogen, depending on its physical state.

Recycling

• High recycling rates from spent automotive catalysts
• Also recycled from old jewellery and electronics

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Applications

• Anodes used in electrolytic production of chlorine
• Electrical contacts for thermostats, relays and hard disk drives
• Oil refining, as a catalyst

Properties

• A shiny, hard and very brittle grey metal.
• Difficult to shape, with a very high melting point.
• Like the other metals of the platinum group, ruthenium is inert to most other chemicals.

Recycling

• Recycling rates over 50%
• Mainly due to recovery of ruthenium from catalytic applications
• Also from ruthenium-containing chemicals, solutions and other chemical scrap

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Applications

• Automotive catalysts
• Manufacture of high-grade glass
• Silverware, to protect against tarnishing

Properties

• A silvery white, shiny metal
• Does not tarnish in air, with outstanding corrosion resistance
• One of the strongest metals

Recycling

• Rhodium is mainly recycled from spent automotive catalysts

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Properties

  • A blue-grey metal, the densest stable element
  • Hard but brittle, remaining lustrous even at high temperatures

Uses

  • Fountain pen tips, as an alloy
  • Fingerprint detection, as osmium tetroxide
  • Very occasional use as a catalyst

Recycling

  • Used in very low quantities, and not yet commonly recycled
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Applications

• Automotive exhausts and spark plugs
• Catalysts
• Medical pacemakers, alloying platinium

Properties

• Like platinum, it is a white metal, though with a glint of yellow.
• Very hard and brittle.
• Iridium has catalytic properties which enable its use in hydrogenation

Recycling

• Recycling accounts for a small proportion of the metal produced globally each year.

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Properties

• Molybdenum has one of the highest melting temperatures of all elements, but a density only 25% greater than iron’s
• When added to steel and cast irons, molybdenum enhances strength, hardenability, weldability and toughness
• In nickel-base alloys, it improves resistance to both corrosion and high-temperature creep deformation

Uses

• Molybdenum-grade stainless steel
• Constructional steel, tool and high-speed steel and cast iron
• Specialised chemical compounds

Recycling

• Molybdenum is recovered from stainless steel and other steels
• In 2011, almost 25,000 tonnes was recycled (about 25% of all molybdenum used)

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Properties

  • One of the lightest metals, at two-thirds the density of aluminium
  • High strength, with six times the specific stiffness of steel
  • Typically added as an alloying element to aluminium, copper, iron and nickel

Uses: 

  • High performance aerospace applications, such as components of rockets, satellites and aircraft
  • Critical systems like aircraft and medical electronics, automobile air bag systems and anti-lock brake systems
  • High resolution medical imaging technology, such as mammography to detect breast cancer

Recycling:

  • Pure beryllium components are recycled from earthbound applications, such as process scrap from machining operations
  • This saves over 70% of the energy that would be needed to extract beryllium from primary ores
  • Recovering beryllium from beryllium-containing alloys in scrap is not performed, because of the very low beryllium content per device
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Did you know? Silicon is a metalloid used in the manufacture of photovoltaic panels.

Key uses:

  • Silicones (used in construction, automotive, personal care) and silanes (used in the glass, ceramic, foundry and painting industries).
  • Aluminium alloys
  • Solar cells and micro-processors

Industry figures:

  • Silicon is on the EU’s Critical Raw Material list, due to its economic importance and the absence of substitutes for several end-use products.
  • European silicon installations are efficiency front-runners, and have almost reached the ceiling of emission improvements with currently available technology.
  • Solar grade silicon can now be produced through a patented hydrometallurgical process, using 75% less energy than traditional methods.

Recycling:

  • Alloyed aluminium and electronic devices containing silicon can be recycled, as well as solar cells containing polysilicon (a purified form of silicon).
  • Pure silicon cannot be recycled as such, and so it remains crucial to keep a strong production base in Europe
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Did you know? Hidden somewhere in a matrix, Antimony substances enable dozens of high-tech materials to have a more resource-efficient performance

Key uses:

• Flame retardant synergist: 3 times less flame retardant needed
• Hardener in Lead alloys used in lead acid batteries
• Polymerisation catalyst in production of PET plastic
• Decolourisation and degasification of glass
• Mineral pigment for plastics, ceramics, etc.

Industry figures:

• 20% of world production of Antimony substances in Europe
• EU producers of Antimony substances are proud to contribute to the saving of 10-15 million of lives from fire accidents every year, while minimising environmental impacts

Recycling:

• Over 95% of Antimony used in lead acid batteries is recycled
• Recycling opportunities from other material streams are developing

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Did you know?

Properties

  • Global reserves of cobalt are on the order of 7.1 million tonnes according to the USGS (2016)
  • Cobalt is mainly produced as a by-product from Nickel (50%) operations and Copper (44%) production, as well as primary cobalt operations (6%)
  • Cobalt has been recognised as a ‘critical’ metal for the EU in its Raw Materials Initiative, due to it's socioeconomic importance

Applications

  • Rechargeable Batteries - Automotive, Mobility, Energy storage
  • Metallurgical - Super alloys, Hard materials, Tools
  • Chemicals - Adhesives, Catalysts, Driers, Pigments
  • Magnets, Electronics
  • Biotechnology - Pharmaceuticals (diagnostics/vaccines), Agriculture, Biogas

Recycling

  • Due to its intrinsic high value (price and properties), cobalt is recovered from most metallurgical applications and reused within these sectors
  • Cobalt is highly recycled within Catalyst applications, and also recovered at very high rates within the Batteries sector
  • The End of Life Recycling Rate of cobalt is estimated at 68% by UNEP
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Properties

• A hard, silvery grey, ductile, and malleable transition metal
• Mined mostly in South Africa, north-western China, and eastern Russia
• The elemental metal is rarely found in nature, but can be isolated artificially

Uses

• As an additive to strengthen steel
• Jet engines, as a component of titanium alloys
• Superconducting magnets

Recycling

• Vanadium is predominantly extracted from titanium magnetite ores and the resulting vanadium slag
• It can also be recycled from oil residues, spent catalysts, ashes and other residues

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Applications

  • Filaments in electric bulbs and electric tubes
  • High-speed steel
  • Drills and jewellery, due to hardness

Properties

  • A very hard, dense, silvery-white, lustrous metal
  • Has the highest melting point of all metals, and the highest tensile strength over 1650°C
  • Is highly resistant to corrosion

Recycling

  • The tungsten processing industry is able to treat almost every kind of tungsten-containing scrap and waste to recover tungsten.
  • Cemented carbide scrap, turnings, grindings and powder scrap from the tooling industry are oxidized and chemically processed. 
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Properties

  • A very heavy, ductile bluish-grey metal.
  • A good conductor of heat and electricity.

Applications

  • Electrolytic condensers
  • Cutting and boring tools
  • Heat exchangers
  • Furnace components

Recycling

  • Tantalum is recovered from slags resulting from the smelting of tin.
  • It is also recovered from powder sweepings and wire scrap from capacitor manufacturing, from end-of-life capacitors and spent sputtering targets
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Properties

  • Exists in two forms: a silvery metal or a red powder.
  • Red selenium is an amorphous, glass-like solid, whereas grey selenium is a soft, bluish-grey metal.
  • Grey selenium is a semi-conductor. Its electrical conductivity increases on exposure to light, reverting to its normal value in darkness.

Applications

  • Glass making
  • Plastic colouring, as a component in pigments
  • Infrared optical devised
  • New CIGS photovoltaic technogies (cadmium indium gallium selenide)

Recycling

  • Selenium is most commonly produced from selenide in many sulfide ores and can be particularly found in the residues from copper refining.
  • Other sources of recycling include spent targets used in chemical or physical vapour deposition or scrap from the production processes for CIGS photovoltaics.
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Properties

  • A very bright, hard, brittle grey metal that cannot be rolled or drawn.
  • Germanium is an excellent semiconductor.
  • One of the most important properties of Germanium is its high refractive index, making it a very useful imaging component of IR systems.

Applications

  • Optical fibres, in the form of germanium tetrachloride
  • Infrared optics, i.e. lenses or windows
  • Photovoltaic solar cells, for example in the first two Mars Exploration Rovers and most satellites

Recycling

  • Germanium is mainly recycled from the production processes of various industries such as fibre optics, solar cells, LEDs and infrared optics.
  • End-of-life recycling presents significant challenges due to the dissipative nature of some of the applications.
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Properties

  • A silvery white metal that melts at 29.76°C and boils at 2204°C
  • Metallic gallium is magnetic and an excellent conductor of both heat and electricity
  • On cooling, the metal can remain liquid below its melting point

Applications

  • Photovoltaic cells and LEDS
  • Space solar cell applications
  • Mobile phones, in processors

Recycling

  • End-of-life recycling is challenging due to the dissipative use of gallium.
  • Most of the recovered gallium comes from the production residues of gallium used in the epitaxy process for making semiconductors.
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Properties

  • A metal with a very high melting point, second only to tungsten.
  • Usually available as a grey powder.
  • One of the rarest metals on Earth.

Applications

  • Filaments for mass spectrographs.
  • Photographic flash lamps.
  • Added to tungsten and molybdenum-based alloys 
  • Also used as an electrical contact material 

Recycling

  • Rhenium is recovered from applications like super-alloy turbine blades used in the aviation industry.
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Properties

  • Pinkish metallic lustre and is very brittle.
  • The metallic features are much more clear-cut than is the case for arsenic and antimony.
  • Unlike most metals, its electrical resistivity in the solid state is greater than in the liquid state.

Applications

  • Effective against stomach ulcers, as bismuth citrate
  • Ally for free-cutting steels
  • Pigments in paints
  • Electronic assemblies, in low-melting-point solders

Recycling

  • Bismuth is difficult to recycle because it is used in many dissipative applications, such as pigments and pharmaceuticals.
  • It is recovered from the production processes for lead and copper refining.
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Properties

  • Crystalline tellurium is a silvery metal with a typical metallic lustre.
  • It is brittle and easily pulverised
  • In the molten state it strongly corrodes metals such as iron and copper.

Applications

  • Solar panels, due to its semiconductor properties when alloyed with cadmium
  • Alloys and steels
  • Compact discs, in Se-Te-Sb and Te-Ge-Sb alloys
  • Reprography and x-ray detectors

Recycling

  • Tellurium is recovered from some anode slimes from the copper refining industry.
  • Its dissipative use in applications like photovoltaics present recycling challenges although some tellurium is recovered from the production process for CdTe photovoltaics
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Properties

• Manganese is a silvery-gray metal that resembles iron. It is hard and very brittle, difficult to fuse, but easy to oxidize
• It has important industrial metal alloy uses, particularly in stainless steels
• Total world production of manganese alloys reached 17.7 million metric tons (mt) in 2011

Uses

• Alloying steel to improve performance at high-temperatures
• Alloying aluminium to increase corrosion-resistance
• Unleaded gasoline, as an additive

Recycling

• Manganese is recycled within iron and steel scrap, as well as from aluminium used-beverage cans
• Globally, 37% of all manganese used is recycled, with an estimated efficiency of 53%

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Properties

  • A silver-white metal
  • The lightest metal, and least dense solid element
  • Highly reactive and flammable

Uses

  • Batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles
  • Production of ceramics and glassware
  • Oils and greases

Recycling

  • Although lithium-ion batteries are recycled in Europe, the lithium is present in such low quantities that recycling is not yet economically viable
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