Rhodia: development of innovative process for the recycling of rare earths

27 January 2011

Rhodia, world leader in rare earth-based formulations, has developed a new process for the recovery and separation of rare earths contained in used low-energy light bulbs. The result of a range of research programs conducted by Rhodia for several years on the life cycle of its products, this original process for the recycling of luminescent powders opens up fresh environmental and economic prospects at a pan-European level.

Once collected and sorted, used light bulbs are currently processed by specialized companies with a view to recycling the various components (including glass, metal, plastics and mercury). The luminescent powders, containing high concentrations of rare earths, are disposed of in landfills. Thanks to the new process developed by Rhodia, they can now be recycled at two of the Group's plants in France (Saint-Fons and La Rochelle). 

Industrial director of Rhodia Rare Earth Systems and responsible for the recycling projects

"At a time when global demand for rare earths is experiencing growth rates above 6% per year, this initiative opens the way to new sources of rare earths perfectly tailored to market needs. This process should be operational by the first quarter of 2012 and allow 25 and 35 jobs directly related to this activity to be created within the Group," said Frédéric Carencotte, industrial director of Rhodia Rare Earth Systems and responsible for the recycling projects.

"This initiative, which also sets out to conserve the use of this resource, illustrates Rhodia's commitment to increasingly sustainable forms of development."

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As a key player in the rare earths market, Rhodia develops a large number of innovations used in everyday applications (flat screens, low-energy light bulbs, exhaust emissions control, high precision optics, etc.).

Rhodia is an international chemical company resolutely committed to sustainable development. As a leader in its businesses, the Group aims to improve its customers’ performance through the pursuit of operational excellence and its ability to innovate. Rhodia is the partner of major players in the automotive, electronics, flavors and fragrances, health, personal and home care markets, consumer goods and industrial markets. The Group employs around 13,600 people worldwide.

Rhodia employs 2,000 people in the Lyon urban area, especially in Saint-Fons.