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Multi-material simulation: a golden recycling opportunity?

The Netherlands – ‘Designing is easy, or is it?’ pondered André Habets, chairman of the Dutch foundation for the disposal of metal-electro products (NVMP) at a resource efficiency symposium held in The Hague last Thursday. While products today are not commonly produced with recycling in mind, he hailed this as the best way towards achieving higher recovery and recycling rates. This vision was shared by keynote speaker and Dutch sustainability expert Dr Antoinette van Schaik.

The large number of components and materials inside consumer products, especially electronics, is a growing recycling concern, Habets stated. ′Philips′ Philishave razor, for example, might be a tiny device but holds no less than 50 different materials!′ he pointed out. ′It is also waterproof, meaning the contents have been sealed, making dismantling even harder.′

′Bringing together the worlds of metallurgy and recycling′ is the best way to help the industry reach the next level with regard to recyclability, Habets and Van Schaik agreed. 

Not only ′yes′ or ′no′

′Losses are inevitable,′ acknowledged the latter, ′partly because some materials are dragged along to the wrong waste stream due to aggressive adhesives like glue. However, recycling is about more than the question ′′do I get my materials back, yes or no?′′ It is about how much′′ do I get back.′

Having collaborated for many years with well-known recyclers such as Sims Recycling Solutions and Remondis Electrorecycling, Van Schaik has been able to establish a detailed recyclability index. This ′meaningful tool′ showcases exactly what is ultimately recycled and how high the percentage is per material for a certain product.

Five minutes work

′Simulation is available to us – we can do it, it takes maybe five minutes!′ added Van Schaik’s long-time project colleague Professor Markus Reuter, director of technology management at Finnish mining and metals technology provider Outotec. Whatever the situation, ′multi-material thinking is key′, he concluded. ′Otherwise, if you close the loop for one material, you still run the risk of losing the other materials.′

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*A more detailed account of Dr Van Schaik′s design for recycling theory is included in the September issue of Recycling International.

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