Honda is claiming a world first for its partnership with Japan Metals & Chemicals Company, under which rare earth metals are to be extracted from various used parts in Honda products. The companies are underlining the fact that they’ve just set up a mass-production operation at a recycling plant, not a mere experimental process.

Honda dealers in Japan and other markets are, the company says, now collecting the rare earth metals contained in nickel-metal hydride batteries in hybrid vehicles that have reached the end of their lifecycles. These metals will be sent to what is said to be the world’s first plant where rare earth metals are extracted as part of a mass-production process.

Until now, Honda had been applying a heat treatment to used nickel-metal hydride batteries before recycling nickel-containing scrap as a raw material of stainless steel. However, a process pioneered by Japan Metals & Chemicals now enables the extraction of as much as 80% of rare earth metals contained in used nickel-metal hydride batteries.

Honda says it will ‘strive’ to reuse the recycled materials not only for nickel-metal hydride batteries, but also in a wide range of other products.