Honda is making hybrid engines a little bit friendlier to the environment. And I don’t mean by a new more efficient engine that cuts more emissions. Honda Motor Co. and the Japan Metals & Chemicals Co. have joined forces to establish the world’s first process to extract rare earth metals from various used parts in Honda products.

This is not an experimental process but one that actually works. The recycling will happen in an actual recycling plant in a mass-production process.

Before the end of the month, the partnership will begin extracting rare earth metals from used nickel-metal hydride batteries, which are current present in a majority of hybrid cars on the road. The batteries will be collected from Honda hybrid vehicles at Honda dealers inside as well as outside of Japan.

Here is how it works (an exerpt from the press release):

Honda had been applying a heat treatment to used nickel-metal hydride batteries and recycling nickel-containing scrap as a raw material of stainless steel. However, the successful stabilization of the extraction process at the plant of Japan Metals & Chemicals Co., Ltd. made possible the extraction of rare earth metals in a mass-production process with purity as high as that of newly mined and refined metals.

The newly established process enables the extraction of as much as above 80% of rare earth metals contained in used nickel-metal hydride batteries. Honda will strive to reuse extracted rare earth metals not only for nickel-metal hydride batteries, but also to a wide range of Honda products. Moreover, Honda will further expand the recycling of rare earth metals in the future as the newly established process enables the extraction of rare earth metals from a variety of used parts in addition to nickel-metal hydride batteries.

So, if you own a Honda hybrid or will be owning one soon, you can rest easier knowing that your car is a little bit greener.