Rare earth recycling bill in works


The government has drafted a bill requiring consumers to make efforts to recycle used electronic products containing rare earth and other metals essential in producing hybrid motor vehicles and precision electronics, official sources said Thursday.

The government intends to secure the supply of rare earth, rare metal and precious metal resources through the recycling of used electronic products, such as mobile phone handsets and digital cameras, as Japan depends on imports for most of its needs.

The bill calls for the central government to budget for the promotion of such a recycling system and for local governments to take measures for separate collection of used electronic products and to deliver them to processors capable of recycling such resources.

It asks businesses and consumers to separate used electronic products from other waste.

The bill asks makers to review materials and designs of those products as part of efforts to cut recycling costs and promote the reuse of rare earth and metal resources extracted from used products.

It allows the central government to seek reports from recycling business operators and sets fines of up to ¥300,000 if they file false reports.

Japan imports most of its rare earth supplies from China, which accounts for more than 90 percent of rare earth minerals produced in the world. In 2010, China restricted exports of rare earth minerals, citing the need to conserve natural resources.

The Environment Ministry says the annual amount of used electronic products disposed of in Japan stands at 650,000 tons, from which 280,000 tons of rare earth and other metal resources worth ¥84.4 billion could potentially be recycled.