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US institute pumps millions into recycling research

The US Remade Institute has provided almost US$ 6 million (EUR 5.3 million) for 12 recycling-related projects, two of which concern recovering valuable materials from e-scrap.

The new recycling R&D projects bring the total of the Remade Institute’s portfolio to 31. Enhancing the recovery of metals and plastics from used electronics is a major focus point for the researchers involved. To date, US$ 15 million has been invested in the projects.

Hope for e-plastics

The first e-scrap project is a partnership between the University of Utah and the Sunnking company. The partners are aiming to adapt relatively low-cost and low-energy leaching processes to recover copper and precious metals directly from e-scrap. Ultimately, the R&D team wants to maximise the extraction of plastics.

‘This technology could replace energy-intensive pyrometallurgical processes such as high-temperature smelting that might otherwise be used to recover metals but where, due to the high temperatures, the plastics are consumed,’ the Remade Institute explains.

The power of solvents

Sunnking, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) are involved in a project to demonstrate the potential to use a solvent-based process to recover mixed metals and plastics from e-scrap.

‘Following extraction of the plastics, the mixed stream would be primarily metals. The plastics would be recovered from the process solvent using an anti-solvent,’ the group notes.

ISRI adds it is also developing a model framework for simulating and analysing the market and the technological dynamics of US fibre recycling, with a primary focus on paper and paperboard recycling. The group is also gathering ‘much needed data’ on fires at recycling facilities to aid the recycling of lithium and lithium-ion batteries.

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