Magnets are one of the most crucial materials necessary for modern Europe, as they are integral to energy conversion across the renewable energy and electric mobility sectors. Unfortunately, even though the alloying constituents of NdFeB magnets have been classified as EU Critical Raw Materials and 90% are produced outside of the EU, there is still no circular economy to reuse and capture value for these types of materials. With the prediction that the need for RE magnets will double in the next 10 years, this problem becomes even more urgent. At present, the only way to recover end of life (EOL) magnets from waste streams of electric and electronic equipment is by shredding and recycling by chemicals and pyrometallurgical routes, which is expensive and energy intensive. Another problem is that the quality of the recollected materials varies significantly, especially with respect to alloying constituents and state of corrosion and employed corrosion protection, with no classification system for recyclate grades of EOL NdFeB magnets. The objective of the proposed project MaXycle is the creation of a much more environmentally friendly ‘short cycle’ re-processing route enabling a new circular economy ecosystem.
Maxycle will have a great impact by overcoming existing low recycling rates due to poor collection, high leakages of collected materials into non-suitable channels, and inappropriate interface management between logistics, mechanical pre-processing and metallurgical metals recovery. It is estimated that Maxycle will increase the recycling quantities of NdFeB by 90%, this introducing a sustainable source of raw materials allowing the increase of EU magnet production without recourse to foreign suppliers.