Finally, because secondary supply from new scrap decreases with each cycle of recycling, Table
9 also highlights that, if primary supply were to cease for whatever reason, secondary supply
from new scrap would decrease geometrically and cease altogether within a very short period.
Thus, although secondary supply from manufacturing waste can buffer market shocks in the
short term, it does not isolate manufacturers from prolonged primary supply disruptions.
This sample analysis should lead readers to be cautious when estimating total demand and
supply. As we have illustrated, when considering sources of supply, secondary production from
new scrap introduces significant potential for double counting in estimates for both supply and
demand. To eliminate this risk, secondary supply from new scrap should rather be seen as a
reduction in the demand for primary indium.
3.7.1 Recycling Process
The technology used in recycling indium is mostly proprietary. Although recovery techniques
Roskill (2010) describes a process in which indium is recovered from spent ITO targets
1. Nitric acid is used to form indium nitrate, followed by neutralization, which produces
2. Indium oxide is formed through thermal decomposition and dissolved in sulfuric acid.
3. Metallic indium can be produced from the resulting solution electrolytically (Roskill
considerably since 1996 to reduce primary demand for indium. Japan, China, and to a lesser
extent, South Korea and Belgium, have most of this capacity (Table 10 and Figure 13). The
geographic dispersion of secondary production is expected, because recyclers of new scrap can
reduce transportation costs and cycle times by locating close to high-tech manufacturing centers
that sputter ITO in the manufacturing of LCDs or other applications.
A bottom-up analysis of global secondary indium production indicates that ~610 tonnes of
refined indium are “measured” as being produced through the recycling of manufacturing waste,
most of which is sourced through the application of ITO in flat-panel displays.
Roskill (2010) states that total secondary indium production was ~602 tonnes in 2009; Indium
The geographic dispersion of secondary production (Figure 13) is located close to where most
LCD manufacturing takes place: Japan, China, and South Korea.
For example, Han et al. (2002) describe a process for the recovery of indium from ITO consisting of chemical precipitation
followed by solvent extraction.
As discussed earlier, it’s important to highlight that “measured” secondary production from new scrap can be significantly
Source: Own estimates; Roskill (2010)
Teck Resources Limited
Nanjing 718 factory
Nanjing Germanium Factory Co. Ltd.
Nikko Environmental Services Co,
which Mitsubishi Materials Group owns 50%
Source: Own estimates; company reports; Roskill 2010
Using the values from Table 10, if one assumes that 608.5 tpa of refined indium are produced,
of indium enter the recycling process and approximately 330 tonnes are lost due to
Calculated using the ratios in Table 10 as
. Solving for ‘x’ yields ~938 tonnes. Similarly, solving for ‘y’ in
., yields ~1,341 tonnes. More detail is provided in Appendix B.