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How Iridium is Fueling the Green Hydrogen Economy

The green hydrogen economy is emerging as a cornerstone in the transition to sustainable energy. Central to this shift is iridium, a rare and precious metal critical for the efficient production of hydrogen. However, with the supply of iridium dwindling and the demand skyrocketing, the importance of recycling iridium from spark plugs has never been more pressing. This blog delves into the pivotal role of iridium, the challenges of its mining, and why recycling from spark plugs is essential for a sustainable future.

The Current State of Iridium Usage in Spark Plugs

In the automotive recycling sector, used spark plugs are often neglected when it comes to resource recovery. Typically, these spark plugs remain attached to scrap engines, which are subsequently processed in steel mills or aluminum foundries. A minority of spark plugs are removed for parts or engine remanufacturing, but even these usually end up in steel scrap, often without any effort to harvest the valuable iridium and platinum they contain.

Before the introduction of targeted recycling programs in the United States, these precious metals were almost entirely lost to the waste stream. This scenario is not unique to the U.S.; it is a global issue. The failure to divert spark plugs to specialized recyclers means that iridium and platinum continue to be wasted, despite their increasing value and necessity.

The Challenges of Mining Iridium

The primary source of iridium is deep mines in South Africa, where extraction is becoming increasingly challenging and costly. As these mines are curtailed, the production of iridium is expected to decline significantly. Some of the deepest mines, located a mile below the surface, are facing rising operational costs, leading to the closure of some shafts.

Projections indicate that by 2029, there will be a steep decline in iridium production from primary mining sources. This reduction in supply comes at a time when the demand for iridium, particularly for use in the hydrogen economy, is set to increase dramatically. The curtailment of these mines underscores the urgency of finding alternative sources of iridium, such as recycling.

The Growing Demand for Iridium in the Hydrogen Economy

Iridium plays a crucial role in Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) electrolyzers, which are essential for producing green hydrogen. As the hydrogen economy grows, so does the demand for iridium. These electrolyzers rely on iridium’s unique properties to facilitate efficient hydrogen production, making the metal indispensable.

With primary mining sources dwindling, the only sustainable way to meet this growing demand is through recycling. The increasing need for iridium in the hydrogen economy makes it imperative to recover as much iridium as possible from existing products, such as spark plugs.

The Importance of Recycling Iridium from Spark Plugs

Recycling iridium from spark plugs is vital for several reasons. First, it supports the sustainability and closed circular economy principles by repurposing valuable materials rather than discarding them. The environmental benefits of recycling spark plugs include reduced mining pressures and the conservation of natural resources. To learn more about how Iridium recovery from recycling is essential, check this blog out here.

Moreover, the economic benefits of recycling iridium are significant. As mining costs rise and iridium supplies decrease, recycled iridium becomes an increasingly valuable commodity. Efficiently harvesting iridium from spark plugs can help stabilize supply and mitigate the risk of shortages.

Encouraging auto recycling to recover iridium from spark plugs can have a profound impact. By diverting spark plugs to specialized recyclers, we can ensure that this precious metal is not wasted, but rather reintroduced into the supply chain to support emerging technologies.

Initiatives and Programs Supporting Iridium Recycling

Several initiatives are already in place to improve iridium recycling rates. For instance, programs like those implemented by noble6 in the United States are making significant strides. These programs aim to educate and encourage the recycling of spark plugs, ensuring that iridium and other precious metals are recovered efficiently.

The impact of these programs extends beyond just the United States. As global awareness and participation in recycling efforts increase, the overall supply of recycled iridium can help meet the growing demands of the hydrogen economy. This blog highlights the importance of such programs in driving sustainability and reducing environmental impacts.


Iridium is essential for the hydrogen economy, and its scarcity makes recycling from spark plugs a critical component of sustainability efforts. By understanding the current state of iridium usage, the challenges of mining, and the growing demand for this precious metal, we can appreciate the importance of recycling initiatives.

Encouraging and supporting recycling programs not only helps preserve iridium supplies but also promotes a more sustainable and circular economy. As we move towards a greener future, every effort to recycle and repurpose valuable materials like iridium counts. Support and participate in recycling programs to ensure a sustainable supply of iridium for the technologies of tomorrow.

To learn about how you can recycle your spark plugs, find out more information HERE!


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