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Highlights of 2019, what’s waiting in 2020?

The holiday season is at the door. Recycling International wishes all readers a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!

We’d like to take this moment to review the year so far. One thing is for sure, despite some challenging developments, 2019 was a year of great innovation and unique recycling projects.

More money for maximum recovery: America’s National Science Foundation has awarded a US$1.8 million grant to establish the Center for Sustainable Separations of Metals. The new platform will see researchers and chemists join forces to develop a better recovery method for precious metals. They will also collect detailed measurements on the chemical reactions to see how they can incorporate kinetics into separation strategies to make recycling more economical. 

Making waves: a consortium of nearly 30 global companies has committed more than EUR 880 million to developing programmes and technologies to tackle the marine waste stream. The venture is called the Alliance to End Plastic Waste. It has prominent members the likes of LyondellBasell, ExxonMobil, Dow and Procter & Gamble.

New hope for rare earth metals: The University of Birmingham has received EUR 4 million in funding to establish a rare earth metals recycling facility. The pilot plant will focus on recycling magnets made of neodymium, boron and iron. These rare earth metals are found in hard disk drives and household appliances as well as in electric vehicles. The multi-million grant will fund the development of a complete European supply chain that is capable of producing 20 tonnes of recycled magnets a year that would otherwise go to landfill.

Saving phones from Africa’s graveyards: Around 2 million mobile phones have been diverted from e-scrap burning operations in developing countries like Ghana, Uganda and Zambia thanks to Closing the Loop. Up to 95% of precious metals that would otherwise be lost forever can now be recycled by European recycling partners.

Eye on black plastics: More than one million tonnes of black plastic scrap are wasted in Europe every year due to the lack of ‘suitable’ sorting equipment, says Finnish tech company Specim. Since the material has a value of EUR 600 per tonne, it sought a solution to recycle this tricky waste stream. Specim’s cutting-edge FX50 sorting system features a custom-made mid-wavelength infra-red camera, allowing it to ‘see the invisible’.

A global treasure hunt: ‘What happens to our stuff when we are gone?’ That is the question Adam Minter, author of Junkyard Planet (2013) before he wrote his new book called ‘Secondhand’. Minter is eager to dispel the myth that Ghana, and especially the notorious area of Agbogbloshie (largely a car junkyard), is the world’s biggest international dumping ground. He estimates that upwards of 80% of e-scrap in Ghana is generated domestically and not imported. Having visited its many scrap processing sites, he doesn’t agree with the term ‘primitive recycling’. 

Pirates not yet extinct: scrap yards have seen a surge in unusual metals turning up in the last couple of months. Kim Browne of Charles Sturt University in Australia. She published a study on ‘ghost battleships’. She notes that bronze propellers and steel plates from World War II aircraft and vessels are worth upwards of EUR 5000 a piece. An entire wreck is valued at least a million dollars.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season.
Let’s make 2020 another great year for recycling!

Would you like to share any interesting developments or article ideas with us? Don't hesitate to contact us.

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