Closing loops in the circular economy: Recovery of an extended range of high-tech materials under research

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Closing loops in the circular economy: Recovery of an extended range of high-tech materials under research
Separation of material fractions is key to advanced plastics recycling

There are a massive amount of electronic devices going onto the market today. Nearly 60 million televisions were sold in Europe last year alone. Sooner or later these devices will return as electronics waste. In the past years, the recycling industry has developed to recover many metals such as ferrometals, copper, aluminum, precious metals, along with some selected plastics from these devices, but currently ignores many other important materials. The recently launched €5.9million project, CloseWEEE, will facilitate recovery and re-use of these materials and ensure the electronics manufacturing and recycling industry plays a key role in the drive towards a circular economy.

The project brings together experts from across Europe. Disassembling of electronic devices will be facilitated through the development of an online Recycler Information Center by iFixit in cooperation with the D.R.Z – Dismantling and Recycling-Centre. Sound disassembly guides will be provided to assist workers on the disassembly line to dismantle electronic devices rapidly. Reusing of previously under-recovered high grade polymers, such as PC/ABS, and antimony compounds used as flame retardants, from electronics waste without the usual problematic quality compromises will be investigated by major TV manufacturer, TP Vision. Recycling of batteries for recovery of graphite and other materials will be addressed by recycling experts, Accurec through development of advanced staged recycling processes.

Fraunhofer IZM coordinates the project, provides latest insights into product technology and will feed major findings into ongoing environmental product policy developments internationally. “Providing dismantlers with immediate online information on disassembly strategies for individual products will bring a touch of Industrie 4.0 to the recycling business”, states Karsten Schischke, researcher at Fraunhofer IZM and coordinator of the project. His colleague Gergana Dimitrova adds: “Closing the loop for high-tech plastics from post-consumer electronics products is quite demanding economically and technically, but will help channeling large material flows back into new products.”  

The CloseWEEE project is among the first projects to be launched under the latest European research programme, Horizon 2020. Sign up for CloseWEEE communications and ensure you remain updated with project progress in the coming years at

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