Axion Consulting, a recycling specialist in Stockport, is one of three European companies receiving funding to trial innovative ways of recovering critical raw materials from household electronic waste.
The funding has been awarded by the EU’s Critical Raw Materials Closed Loop Recovery project, which aims to increase the recovery of critical raw materials (CRMS) by five per cent by 2020 and 20 per cent by 2030.
The trials will focus on recovering materials from household waste electrical and electronic products (WEEE), including cobalt, antimony, graphite, tantalum, rare earth elements, gold, silver, platinum group metals and copper.
Many consumer electronics products, such as smartphones, kettles, toasters, white goods and TVs, contain small quantities of these materials, which are becoming increasingly scarce.
Under the UK’s WEEE regulations, manufacturers that produce more than five tonnes of WEEE per year must join a producer compliance scheme to pay for the collection, treatment and recovery of WEEE from household and non-household waste.
However, currently less than a third of the 9.9 million tonnes of WEEE generated annually in the EU is collected and recycled properly.
Worldwide, around £34 billion worth of recoverable materials from WEEE is thought to be wasted each year.
The trials will study a range of innovative methods to increase recovery rates, from manual and chemical dismantling to electrochemical and hydrometallurgical processes.
Axion Consulting’s trial will focus on increasing the efficiency of retailer take-back schemes.
Jane Gardner, principal consultant at Axion Consulting, said: “Axion Consulting is very pleased to be involved in this project working with a strong consortium of partners including DixonsCarphone, DHL EnviroSolutions, E3 Recycling Ltd and ITRI Ltd.
“We are looking forward to working with our partners to trial different ways to engage with consumers to encourage them to return WEEE to retailers, and measure the impact this has on the volume and quality of material collected. The WEEE collected will then be processed using technologies which are at the forefront of CRM recovery techniques.”
The three funded trials, which will run from July 2016 to June 2018, form the first part of the Critical Raw Materials Closed Loop Recovery project.
In total, the project will spend €2.1 million (£1.8 million) over three-and-a-half years and is supported by WRAP, Innovate UK, the Welsh government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), among others.
The two other companies taking part in the first stage trials are Scotland-based Re-Tek and Ecodom in Italy.