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Robots are taking over at renamed Dutch metal recycler – who’s next? 

Dutch Myne Circular Metals, formerly known as Reukema, has launched what it claims to be the world’s first digital recycling plant. With its patented Xorter, aluminium scrap is sorted into alloys using artificial intelligence (AI) and robots.

In an economy with scarce resources, metals are crucial for the energy transition and for keeping the economy running. According to Myne Circular Metals of Harderwijk in the Netherlands, innovations like Xorter may well offer ‘a tangible solution’.

Before the digital factory existed, many high-quality raw materials ended up in low-value products such as gearboxes and engine blocks – effectively ‘downcycling’. That’s clearly a waste of valuable materials for Myne’s co-ceo Martijn van de Poll. ‘Thanks to seven years of dedicated research and innovation, the Xorter makes it possible to transform most post-consumer metals into high-quality materials that can be used to produce high-quality products such as cars.’

In the coming years, Xorter technology will be applied to sorting copper, brass, and zinc alloys from waste. ‘There is brass for water applications, free from lead in the alloy, and brass for locks, zippers and screws,’ says van de Poll. ‘The latter has a different alloy suitable for different applications.’

‘Green’ steel?

For the design and development of the Xorter, Myne has been collaborating with Delft University of Technology. Eventually, the goal is to also sort iron scrap. Professor of resources and recycling at Delft, Peter Rem, says: ‘Iron waste consists of different alloys. An iron can or car door does not contain the same alloy as an iron beam in a building.’

Europe exports more than 24 million tonnes of iron waste. Making iron waste circular would truly yield green steel, Rem believes. ‘Most European steel is still made from iron ore in blast furnaces, associated with very high CO2 emissions and is, environmentally, a big challenge. With the Xorter technology, we expect to produce high-quality steel from iron waste, reducing the negative environmental impact by almost 90%.’

Scaled-up potential

Further innovation and collaboration with TU Delft will continue over the following years, according to van de Poll. ‘First, we will make the Xorter technology robust at our facility in Harderwijk. Then, we will scale up. The market is global, and the issue of achieving high-quality circularity is hot and significant. In Europe alone, hundreds of Xorters could be placed in terms of capacity.’

Smart e-scrap line  

Myne and TU Delft have worked on a prototype line, based on a new patented process, to recover raw materials from electronic waste. A full-scale production plant is expected to be launched in 2024.

Martijn van de Poll: ‘In Europe alone, hundreds of Xorters could be placed in terms of capacity.’

A new name for a new approach

Myne Circular Metals is the new name for Reukema. The management of the 106-year-old company from Harderwijk in the centre of the Netherlands believed it was time for a change. ‘The old way of recycling is a thing of the past and we need to transition to circularity,’ argues Myne’s co ceo Henry Staal. ‘Our goal is to create advanced technology that can convert waste into high-quality materials. In transitioning to a producer of circular metals, changing to Myne (The New Mine) feels logical.’

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