PGMs are valuable due to their unique properties and rarity. Because of this, recycling (also known as secondary supplies) is critical to conserve these precious resources and meet market demand.

Depending on the application, most PGMs are recoverable through the product lifecycle. Once recycled, secondary PGM has exactly the same properties as primary PGM, so ost of the PGM mined to date is still either in use or in a useable form.

PGMs are reused in two ways:

Open-loop recycling

The original purchaser of the metal does not retain control of the PGM, so the metal is available to the market once recovered. It contributes to market supply and helps bridge the gap between supply and demand.


Closed-loop recycling

Metal is retained within the same application by the same owner. For example, PGM recycled from spent chemical catalyst used make fresh catalyst to replace it. Because the net amount of metal in use has not changed, the ‘returned’ metal does not count as market supply, but it reduces the need for fresh metal to be purchased and therefore makes demand more sustainable.


PGMs in use

Because the PGMs are highly recyclable and retain the same properties once recycled, the 'urban mine' of metal currently in use will continue to be a valuable source of these metals for many decades. In fact with regulatory support to ensure PGMs in end-of-life equipment are collected as efficiently as possible, even more could be recovered in future.

The largest secondary supply of PGMs today is from catalytic converters. With the lifetime of internal combustion engines remaining on the road for 15 to 20 years and beyond, there will be a continuous source of PGMs for some time.

In jewellery applications, stocks exist mainly of platinum stocks and are held by consumers. Recycling of old jewellery in China and Japan happens more routinely than for Western regions.

PGMs used in industrial applications are a form of stock currently circulating in a closed loop. As this PGM has been purchased for a particular use, it will only  become available in the future should new technologies or product demand change. Petroleum refineries and petrochemical plants are an example of large accumulations of PGMs that could be a potential source of PGMs for future applications.

Recycling and refining

Learn more about Johnson Matthey's recycling capabilities

Read More