New ways of extracting e-scrap metals are being researched by Ireland’s University College Cork. Current recovery rates of recycled copper, aluminium, steel and solder from e-scarp waste average 70-80%. The new research project trials that are being patented are achieving reclaim levels of over 95% of recycled e-waste materials.
Parties involved in the RecEOL project include, Composite Recycling Ltd, who have developed a patented printed circuit board recycling process, which treats the input with nitrogen and uses molten salt at temperatures of 350-400 degrees Celsius to recover valuable metals in only 15 minutes. The technology requires no shredding of printed circuit boards, thus not losing any metals and significantly reducing capital and operational costs compared to traditional processes.
The RecEOL initiative note that this represents the ‘first recycling technology of its kind’ to efficiently capture critical and technology metals, such as indium and tantalum from e-scrap. In fact, recovery rates for metals like indium and tantalum are now between 50-80%.
Another advantage is that other product such as LCD screen and batteries may also be treated as well as automobile shredder residue.
The RecEOL project is co-funded by Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency and Geological Survey Ireland, as well as the ERA-MIN2 funding programme. Ultimately, the RECEOL project aims to build a pilot plant to show that a scaled-up commercial plant is economically viable.
Projects such as this illustrate the clear benefits of industry and academia working together to solve the challenges of extracting e-scrap whilst recognizing the commercial business opportunities. Recycal MD Doug Rowe recently visited Ireland and looked at a number of new opportunities and technologies that could have application in Australia. “The investment in this whole area in Ireland reflects its growing importance to that economy”. “Recycle and its sister companies, will continue to invest in the very best technologies to efficiently recycle e-scrap”. Mr Rowe said.