Honda has signed a deal with Japan Metals and Chemicals Company (JMC) to set up processes and plant to extract rare earth metals from spent hybrid batteries and other Honda car parts.
The pair say the new operation is a world first as part of a mass-production process at a recycling plant. Honda had already been heat-treating used nickel-metal hydride batteries and extracting the nickel from other scrap for reuse in new stainless steel. But the new process, developed and stabilised at JMC’s plant, is more efficient, allowing them to extract more than 80 per cent of the metals in NiMH batteries salvaged from hybrid Hondas in Japan and offshore, with purity levels matching those of their newly mined and refined counterparts.
The two plan to extend the process to take in a widening variety of used parts, with Honda looking to reuse the extracted metals increasingly across its product range.
Honda’s long-standing 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) policy saw it become the first Japanese car maker to recycle parts on a large scale. In Australia, its policy extends to the recycling materials wherever it can across its entire operation. At its Melbourne head office, that extends to food scraps from its canteen, cardboard and office paper, glass, plastic bottles, aluminium cans, steel and strapping.
Its local vehicle warehousing, repair and preparation plants work to a program established for the recycling of cardboard, textiles, rubber, electronics and metal salvaged from vehicles. And not in small quantities: March this year saw the local facility recycle more than seven tonnes of material.
Much of the time it’s fairly straightforward, for example in recycling water from the workshop wash-bays. But sometimes the material finds its way into unexpected places, for example the old tyre rubber used in the floor of the head office gym.
The company has rolled out the program through its dealer network, too. They use eco seat covers, floormats and fold away carry bags created from recyclable materials.
In the US, the company’s ‘Green Factory’ initiative saw ten of its 14 manufacturing plants reaching their target of zero waste going to landfill, the remaining four rating as ‘virtually zero’.