Integrated Approaches for Recovering Trace Metals and Improving the Return from Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
As the quantity of highly functional, strategically relevant metals in electrical and electronic equipment has increased, WEEE has become an important source of raw materials for key trace metals. However, current regulatory and business environments have seen industry and research unable to technologically adapt existing recycling processes for this task.
In the UPgrade project, researchers are working to develop new and improved processes and production chains for the enrichment of metals from WEEE and WEEE components, to minimize losses and to close material loops at all stages of already established recycling processes. Such improved recycling will reduce strategic dependence on raw material imports and prevent environmental pollution caused by primary production. Key trace metals have been assessed as critically important in WEEE and classified as “target metals”. These metals are now being investigated within the project and include antimony, gallium, indium, cobalt, rare earth elements, tantalum and tin.
Experimental material flow analyses of trace metals from processing are performed throughout the recycling process, and serve to optimize production chains. At the same time, researchers are developing new enrichment processes for target metals that have proven difficult to recycle to date.
The project will further promote interregional networking across industry branches and between companies throughout the supply chain, and secure the reuse of important raw materials on a long-term basis by optimizing the interfaces between various processes and stakeholders.
Companies which have already demonstrated innovative recycling approaches, will optimize existing systems, develop new techniques and improve the system integration. The results of this research will be fed into new industry recommendations, such as “Design for Recycling” guidelines specifically targeting trace metals.