€2.1 million project to map out effective recovery of raw materials from WEEE

Source: Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP)

Banbury, UK – A new, EU LIFE funded project on „Critical Raw Material Closed Loop Recovery“ (‘CRM Recovery’) will explore commercial opportunities for harvesting critical raw materials and precious metals including gold, silver and platinum group metals, from everyday unwanted electronic products and will be the first-of-its-kind to link collection methods with recovery success. WRAP is to partner with the KTN, Wuppertal Institute, ERP UK Ltd, and EARN for this project.

Critical raw materials (CRMs) are crucial to many electrical products, and the increasing pressure on their supply is a growing economic concern for businesses and governments. However, WRAP research has shown that nearly 40 per cent of electrical products go to landfill when they are disposed of. CRM Recovery aims to address these challenges by exploring viable alternative commercial streams that boost the economy, and sustainable solutions that reduce the reliance on the earth’s natural capital and the need for mining raw materials.

To increase the recovery by 5 per cent

Over the course of the three and a half year project, CRM Recovery aims to increase the recovery of a range of CRMs by 5 per cent from products such as consumer electronics, ICT equipment and small household appliances.

The project will link collection methods, such as kerbside collections, retailer take-back schemes or postal returns, to how the material components of these products can be efficiently dismantled, recovered and returned to the market. This will present environmental benefits by keeping materials in the loop for longer, and by demonstrating the potential to economically recover these materials from Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Findings will be fed back to the European Commission in the form of policy recommendations and proposals for infrastructure development for the cost effective recovery of these precious and critical raw materials.

Participation of four countries

Four countries will participate – UK, Germany, Italy and Turkey, with each country representing varying maturity stages of recovery development, allowing cross-comparison so that a European-wide framework can be developed.

Dr Liz Goodwin OBE, CEO, WRAP commented: “We’re delighted to lead this project which will find effective routes for collecting and recovering valuable materials from electrical and electronic products. I look forward to seeing how these new insights inform the bigger picture, demonstrating the economic and environmental benefits of making better use of resources across Europe”.

Scott Butler, UK and Ireland Regional Director, ERP argued:

“ERP UK is supporting the CRM Recovery project because we believe this vital area of research will benefit our producer members and help to achieve a circular economy. The environmental and economic gains from the project’s findings could have a profound effect on the electronics industry and the wider economy.”

Important for many modern technologies

Dr Steve Fletcher, Head of Sustainability & Resource Efficiency and Head of Chemistry, KTN underlined: “KTN welcome the award of project CRM Recovery by the European LIFE programme. Encouraging sustainable and efficient use of resources is core to KTN’s activities focused on stimulating innovation and economic growth in the UK. Taking part in this project is a further step to enabling businesses to adopt advanced and novel triple bottom line sustainable technologies and services.”

Dr Sven Grieger, Manager WEEE Operations, EARN European Advanced Recycling Network stated: “CRM Recovery will provide both WEEE take-back organisations and recycling operations best practice methods to improve future value-added by increasing the recovery of certain critical raw materials. EARN is joining the project in order to add our knowledge and long-term experiences in WEEE collection and processing across Europe.”

Dr Henning Wilts, Coordinator of the research programme Waste and Resource Efficiency at the Wuppertal Institute said: „We are pleased to be working on this project, as recovering critical raw materials is important for many modern technologies requiring specific metals. Recovering these materials enables the closure of material loops and provides greater opportunities for continuous innovation.”

Source: Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP)