By 2030, the market for rare earth elements (REEs) is expected to increase at least three-fold due to the push to electrify and decarbonize everything, as demanded by the climate crisis.
REEs are an essential component of technology required for a cleaner world, including electric vehicle motors, wind turbines, and electrified consumer and industrial appliances. On top of that, they are already an existing necessity for the billions of smartphones made every year.
However, according to the startup Cyclic Materials, these are among the least recycled metals because of how difficult it is to separate the various magnetic materials in end-of-life products. Because they’re not recycled at a commercial scale, they end up thrown away, trapped in the magnets of their landfill-bound products.
Plus, as more REEs are mined — though reports say we have enough for the world’s full electrification and decarbonization — they have both economic, environmental, and social implications whether it be the resources it uses or the poor, and at times illegal, labor conditions associated with mining.
That’s why Cyclic Materials comes in. Based in Canada, Cyclic Materials is creating a circular supply chain for REEs, recovering critical metals from phones, turbines, motors, and so on before they wind up in the dump.
According to the company, reducing the use of virgin REEs can not only have benefits for the aforementioned implications of mining but it has additional advantages like shorter development timelines for manufacturing, which lowers energy use, and reduced pressure on mines, which strengthens the domestic supply chain.
These “magnets are mostly supplied from only one country and what we are doing is we are recycling those magnets from end-of-life products to put them back into the applications,” the startup’s CEO and cofounder, Ahmad Ghahreman said in a 2022 video discussing their pilot plant in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
On top of that, using recycled REEs consumes less water, reduces waste, and has a significantly smaller carbon footprint. In fact, the startup says recycled REEs require as little as 40% of the CO2 emissions of newly mined material.
Last Tuesday, the advanced metals recycling company announced it raised an “oversubscribed” Series A financing round of $27 million. Led Energy Impact Partners (EIP) and BMW i Ventures (BiV) with participation from Fifth Wall, Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC), and existing Cyclic Materials investor Planetary Technologies, the round brings the company’s total capital raised to over $30 million and will contribute to the scale-up of its technologies.
“REEs are critical for many applications from small electronics to large wind turbines but are very challenging to produce,” Kasper Sage, Managing Director of BiV, said in a statement.
“The Cyclic Materials team has developed a novel process that can create a sustainable, secondary supply source. We are excited about the company's plan to scale this technology, helping secure the metals supply chain of the future.”
Additionally, Ghahreman says the funding and new partnerships will help Cyclic plan future growth across the world “in North America, Europe, and Asia.”
Beyond REEs, Cyclic Materials’ process recycles copper, aluminum, steel, cobalt, and nickel—metals that are also required for electrification and decarbonization. In addition to these, the startup also says its process is producing high-purity recycled rare earth oxides, REEs sold as oxide compounds.
These compounds are used across industries, including semiconductors, the backbone of modern electronics from consumer devices, communications, and computing, to healthcare, military systems, and transportation. If these oxides could be made from recycled materials and injected across industries, it would open a myriad of doors for the circular economy.
In addition to developing successful pilot plants, like the one in Kingston, Cyclic has already begun distributing samples to potential clients.
Cyclic Materials may only be a startup now but in 2026, Ghahreman says they will be fully established across North America.
“Our production of mixed rarest oxide is expected to be 600 tons per year and by the end of 2030 we will be globally installed and our production of mixed rarest oxide, our key product, will be over 3000 tons per year,” he said in the video. “This is good for our environment and also it opens up a new source of material that the industry will appreciate.”