Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS



Project ID: 308549
Funded under: FP7-ENVIRONMENT
Country: Austria

Periodic Report Summary 2 - HYDROWEEE DEMO (Innovative Hydrometallurgical Processes to recover Metals from WEEE including lamps and batteries - Demonstration)

Project Context and Objectives:
Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is the fastest growing waste stream in Europe. Electr(on)ic products that contain a high amount of valuable metals. For example, mobile phones have a metal content of 25 % (accumulator and recharger not included), mainly copper (Cu), iron (Fe), nickel (Ni), silver (Ag) and zinc (Zn). Though the absolute amounts of each device regarding the most valuable elements are low (16 g Cu, 0.35 g Ag, 0.0034 g Au, 0.015 g Pd, and 0.00034 g Pt) this adds up to e.g. 0.35 t of platinum (Pt) based on estimated 1 billion of cell phones in 2010. Regardless of their low amount in specific electronic components there are some metals which are highly preferred or are even essential for the present technology.
In 2010 the Raw Materials Initiative of the European Commission defined 14 critical raw materials, most of rare metals (including rare earths oxide) which are used for electr(on)ic devices belong to this category.

The project aims to demonstrate the stability, financial credibility and resource-efficiency of the innovative processes developed in the previous FP7-Research for SMEs project HydroWEEE, an industrial stationary plant as well as a full-scale mobile plant have been realised.
The previously developed processes of extracting yttrium (Y), indium (In), lithium (Li), cobalt (Co), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), gold (Au), silver (Ag), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb), tin (Sn) will be improved more and new processes to recover additional metals which are still in the output fractions (e.g. Cerium Ce, Platinum Pt, Palladium (Pd), Europium (Eu), Lanthanum (La), Terbium (Tb), …) from WEEE or other sectors (e.g. automotive, …), innovative solutions for the integrated treatment of waste water as well as solid wastes have been further developed.
The overall objective of the HydroWEEE Demo project is to build 2 industrial scale, real-life demonstration plants (one stationary and one mobile) in order to test the performance and prove the viability of the processes from an integrated point of view (technical, economical, operational, social) including the assessment of its risks (including health) and benefits to the society and the environment as well as remove the barriers for a wide market uptake later on.

An innovative industrial stationary plant focussing mainly on the processing of CRT- and lamps-powder as well as LCDs has been specifically designed and constructed for the needs of partner Relight in Italy.
In addition EcoRecycling has designed and built a full-scale, industrial mobile plant capable of processing all fractions (CRT, lamps, LCDs, Li-batteries, printed circuit boards, …) in 2 containers.
The performance of both plants are currently tested and their viability demonstrated. At this aim the mobile plant is currently operated under real life conditions.

Project Results:
After defining exactly the specifications of the industrial-like, stationary demonstration plant mainly by Relight, EcoRecycling designed the plant in detail in workpackage 1. Based on that a general contractor has been selected following an international tender. After intense negotiations and cost-wise optimisation the contractor built the demonstration plant and Relight started with test operations.
Workpackage 2 started also with the exact definition of the specifications of the industrial-like mobile demonstration plant by ISL, Greentronics, SET and EcoRecycling. Based on that EcoRecycling designed and built the plant following international tenders fort he individual components. Pupin contributed the electrical works for the mobile plant as well as the automation of both plants. Finally the mobile plant has been delivered to Greentronics for first tests.
Because of the rapidly falling prices for most critical metals (rare earth) the research team - UNIVAQ, UNIROMA and UNIVPM – needed to optimise the economical performance of the individual processes in workpackge 3. In addition a new process for industrial catalysts as well as a solution to treat the waste water has been developed.. Furthermore ISL developed a semi-automated dismantling process for extracting components rich in precious and critical materials from printed wiring boards in order to enlarge the concentration of these materials in the input fraction.
In workpackages 4 and 5 all necessary preparations (permissions, infrastructure, input material, …) for the operation of both plants have been done by Relight and Greentronics. The Operation of both plants has been started successfully. In addition ISL negotiated and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the first test-user outside the consortium – Electrocycling in Germany.
In workpackage 6 several publications and presentations have raised a lot of awareness and expectations from potential users and buyers of the HydroWEEE plants. Several Dissemination activities attracting lot of attention has been carried out already.
Finally ISL ensured the smooth and successful running of the project through workpackage 7.
Potential Impact:
A mobile plant using hydrometallurgical processes has been developed to extract valuable metals with high purity (above 95%) from WEEE.
By making this plant mobile (in a container) several SMEs can benefit from the same plant at different times and therefore limit the necessary quantities of waste as well as investments. By making the processes universal, several fractions (lamps, CRTs, LCDs, printed circuit boards and Li-batteries) can be treated in the same mobile plant in batches. This approach can further contribution in reducing the minimum quantity per fraction per recycler.
In addition these innovative HydroWEEE processes produce materials with a grade of purity that they can be directly used by end-users for electroplating and other applications.
In this way, two levels of intermediaries in the recycling product chain (bigger recyclers and secondary material processors) will be bypassed. As a consequence, SME recyclers will increase their competitiveness.
HydroWEEE Demo will boost European competitiveness by applying novel processes for improved resource efficiency by extracting rare and precious metals from WEEE and other sectors. Furthermore it will reduce Europe´s dependence on foreign raw material sources (e.g. recent export ban of rare earth metals from China) and by that make the European industry more independent and vulnerable.

List of Websites:


Bernd Kopacek, (Owner and Managing Director)
Tel.: +43 1 2982020
Fax: +43 1 87606619
Record Number: 182039 / Last updated on: 2016-05-25
Information source: SESAM
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