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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CloseWEEE (Integrated solutions for pre-processing electronic equipment, closing the loop of post-consumer high-grade plastics, and advanced recovery of critical raw materials antimony and graphite)
H2020

CloseWEEE Report Summary

Project ID: 641747
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.5.4.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CloseWEEE (Integrated solutions for pre-processing electronic equipment, closing the loop of post-consumer high-grade plastics, and advanced recovery of critical raw materials antimony and graphite)

Reporting period: 2014-12-01 to 2016-05-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Waste of electric and electronic equipment (WEEE) is a complex waste stream comprising of metals, glass, wood, and plastics among others, including diverse substances that pose environmental and health risks if not treated adequately. WEEE is considered to be one of the fastest growing waste streams in the EU, growing at 3-5% per year (Eurostat). In addition, the recovery and recycling of WEEE opens new and valuable opportunities to introduce secondary raw materials to the market, giving them a « second life ». With respect to the tremendous amount of electronic waste, the recovery of secondary raw materials from WEEE is mandatory and has been requested by the European WEEE directive (2012/19/EU). Whereas for many components of WEEE effective recycling technologies have already been developed and put into practice there are significant amounts of valuable components which are not exploited yet.

In this scenario, the main goals of CloseWEEE are: (i) increase the recovery yield of under-exploited PC/ABS and ABS plastic fractions to 80% of their content in the WEEE plastic input; (ii) increase the application of recycled PC/ABS in new EEE enclosures with a minimum share of 20% recycled polymer; (iii) raise recovery yields of BFR (brominated flame retardants) and Sb2O3 to 80% of their content in the WEEE plastic input; Sb2O3 is used as flame retardant synergist in plastics containing brominated flame retardants. It has been placed on the list of critical raw materials at EU level by the Raw Materials Supply group chaired by the EC ; (iv) minimize levels of hazardous compounds in any product fraction to levels, which meet the requirements specified by regulation and standards of manufacturing companies safely; (v) reduce the losses of critical materials present in Li-Ion batteries. These contain significant amounts of Li and Cu but also of Co and graphite, both being on the list of critical raw materials at EU level. The objective is to reduce the losses of Co and graphite during treatment of waste Li-Ion batteries by at least 50%, (vi) improve the flow of information to recyclers through a Recycler Information Center in order to make recycling procedures quicker and safer.

These goals are reflected in the following Scientific and Technological objectives that will be achieved in different stages of the project execution:

Objective 1: High efficient on-line identification and separation of halogen and non-halogen polymer fractions and plastics types from WEEE streams. Objective 1 will be achieved through the appropriate combination of automatic and advanced sensor based sorting techniques with traditional separation techniques.

Objective 2: Efficient recovery of high quality segregated target polymer fractions (PC/ABS and ABS). Two different approaches are evaluated in the project in order to achieve Objective 2: (i) Once Objective 1 is achieved, the resulting Br-free fraction will be subjected to an appropriate combination of density and optical based separations and mechanical steps aiming at production of high quality segregated PC/ABS and ABS (ii) In parallel to this separation approach, the CreaSolv® technology , based on a solvent based and selective fractionation will be assessed in order to obtain also high quality segregated PC/ABS and ABS. Both approaches will be compared and one of them will be selected based on a techno-economic and environmental evaluation.
Objective 3: Efficient recovery of target additives and critical minerals from flame retarded plastic fraction (Sb2O3 and BFR). The CreaSolv® technology will be used in order to produce Sb2O3 and a BFRs fraction, from halogen rich plastic fraction. Separation of BFR from polymeric fraction will act positively over the recycling potential of recovered polymers. Besides, these recycled additives can be applied cost-effectively in the Br and Sb industries.

Objective 4: Efficient recovery of critical materials such as Cu, Co, Li and Graphite from EOL Li-Ion batteries. The recycling potential of Cu, Co, Li and Graphite from Li-Ion batteries from notebooks, mobile phones, smartphones and tablet PCs as well as the TRLs of new recycling technologies and market situation and development is evaluated. By integrating latest knowledge, an innovative process technology, focused on hydrothermal recovery that enables the recycling of critical and industrial materials at high yield will be designed, constructed and tested at lab scale.

Objective 5: Appropriate & eco-friendly upgrading of recovered materials to second-life applications. Objective 5 aims to: (i) develop and apply innovative eco-friendly halogen free flame retardants in recycled polymers. These additives will contribute also to the thermal stability and flow properties of recycled polymers, (ii) develop appropriate FR recycled polymer compounds, maximize the ratio of recycled polymer and optimize processability, mechanical and flame retardant properties for E&E market applications, (iii) optimize recovered PC/ABS compounds and develop them at pilot scale, (iv) characterize recovered additives from polymer halogen fraction: Sb2O3 and Br derivatives to assess for the first time their processability at lab-scale and to define second-life applications, (v) characterize recovered critical metals from Li-Ion batteries, (vi) evaluate and assure the techno-economic and environmental viability of re-use of the recovered materials.

Objective 6: Improve the flow information to recyclers, by means of a Recycler Information Center (RIC). The Recycler Information Center constitutes a centralized source for manual disassembly procedures specific to selected WEEE products categories. Improved access to product information is expected to lead to safer and more efficient treatment of WEEE and to facilitate harvesting functional components from WEEE.

Objective 7: Validation of CloseWEEE products performance in added-value applications and CloseWEEE technologies and processes. Objective 7 aims to (i) validate the processability and performance of recovered ABS and PC/ABS in new EEE in typical consumer electronics applications; (ii) validate the performance of the recovered additives (BFR fraction) and critical minerals (Sb2O3) in alternative applications based on their properties and the quality/purity grade after recovering; (iii) validate the performance of recovered critical materials from Li-Ion batteries, considering their second-life applications based on their properties and the quality/purity grade after recovering; (iv) validate the recycling processes for the target materials; (v) validate the performance of the RIC in a relevant environment.
Objective 8: Increasing range and yields of recovered materials from WEEE streams, increasing energy efficiency of recycling processes, reduced environmental footprint measured by qualitative and quantitative indicators. The methodology to evaluate the environmental performances of the CloseWEEE products and processes has been developed based on the life cycle assessment principles. This analysis is expected to confirm the following objectives: (i) 30% reduction of the global warming potential of the recycled materials compared to virgin materials; (ii) 80% reduction of the fossil fuel depletion of recycled PC/ABS and ABS compared to virgin plastics; (iii) decrease the ecotoxicity potential mainly due to the high quality sorting of halogen and non-halogen plastics fractions and subsequent recovery of additives from BFRs and (iv) 25% reduction of the emissions related to the disposal of WEEE plastics.

Objective 9: Economic and environmental validation of the products and processes developed in CloseWEEE. The economic analysis involves the determination of the total costs through the implementation of a Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCC) as well as the implementation of a techno-economic analysis aimed to determine the feasibility of bringing the CloseWEEE products/processes to the market. The environmental validation of the products and processes developed within CloseWEEE includes an environmental impact evaluation through the implementation of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) tools.

Objective 10: Establishment of Ecodesign criteria for new EEE associated to target applications and establishment of support actions between labelling and green procurement initiatives and CloseWEEE. Existing legal and voluntary instruments are analysed with respect to the D4R approaches, which facilitate disassembly, identification and separation of hazardous substances, identification of plastics, use of compatible polymer types and minimum amount of different plastics types. In addition, all instruments are screened for criteria requiring the use of post-consumer recycled plastics in new EEE. An ecodesign criteria catalogue will be developed. The criteria will be aligned with ongoing criteria currently developed by EPEAT and European labelling schemes.

Objective 11: Development and deployment of an effective dissemination plan of the CloseWEEE results toward relevant stakeholders and interested parties and development of an exploitation plan for preparing the market take-up and achieve the full exploitation of the project relevant results. Dissemination and exploitation plans are set up and updated according to market characteristics and CloseWEEE results throughout the project execution. Furthermore, the business opportunities coming from the project results are investigated and appropriate strategies for market creation and take-up are set up. Special attention is given to the creation of business models and lines, to support growth of EU WEEE recycling industry and promote the re-use of value-added products from the WEEE streams. Effective dissemination channels and tools are generated (e.g. website, presence of the project in social media such as Twitter and LinkedIn, brochures, etc.).

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The main progress towards the project objectives in the first reporting period is as follows:

Objective 1: High efficient on-line identification and separation of halogen and non-halogen polymer fractions and plastics types from WEEE streams:

- European legal and non-legal limitations and standards for using recyclates in new EEE have been identified based on available literature. This information will be updated, according to the results from market surveys, which are in progress.

- The polymer and bromine content in samples of WEEE streams have been determined. This has been done through NIR/MIR infrared identification technologies to detect the type of polymers and XRF handheld device to detect Bromine.

- Regarding BFR plastics, it has been found that the variability is highly dependent on the equipment and the EEE model or date of manufacture. For instance, some old PC monitors are highly brominated, as well as some ICT equipment’s plastic parts. Small appliances showed in general lower values of bromine content in their composition.
-Effective WEEE selection, classification, dismantling and identification have been recognized as critical steps within a plastic recycling scheme, in order to decrease the rejected amount of non-polymeric materials (metals, glass, rubber, other plastics, etc.) and increase recovery yields of the target materials.

- The technical requirements of recovered PC/ABS and ABS have been determined from potential end-users. A preliminary analysis of the potential effects that impurities can have in the recovered plastic streams has been performed. The main constraints to increase the recycling rate of WEEE plastics from a theoretical perspective have been detected.

-XRT and LIBS technologies have been considered for the sorting of brominated plastics. For these trials, two sources of materials have been defined as input plastic fractions: dismantled plastic fragments (ICT Monitors from TVs and PCs) and Shredded mixed fractions (SDA/ICT). These fractions have been selected due their high content of PC/ABS and ABS.

- Brominated and non-brominated plastic fractions have been generated for downstream tests.

- According to the tests performed so far, LIBS detection system has been selected as identification technology for fine detection of brominated plastics. Based on first identification tests and trials a preliminary design of the brominated plastics sorting prototype has been configured (position of laser, main structure, conveyor, spectrometer and sorting units).
Dimensions of the system have been adapted to laser features and possible plastic fragments to be sorted.

Objective 2: Efficient recovery of high quality segregated target polymer fractions (PC/ABS and ABS).
- As neither XRT nor LIBS are able to detect the polymer type, additional technologies are required to obtain separated PC/ABS and ABS fractions (e.g. NIR, MIR, High speed laser). Currently, two sensor based technologies, Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIR) and High-Speed Laser Spectroscopy are tested. Both technologies show high accuracy in the sorting of target polymers out of Bromine-free fractions.

- The technological approach and WEEE plastic streams treatment steps to generate PC/ABS and ABS separated fractions have been updated, according to the requirements that the recovered plastics shall meet.

- Process requirements of the CreaSolv ® process were defined in order to selectively extract ABS and PC/ABS from mixed WEEE plastics. These include input specifications (size), selectivity of solvents and efficacy of cleaning and solvent recovery units of the process. KPIs of the process define expectable yields of PC/ABS and ABS as well as acceptable reductions in molecular weights of the polymers. In addition, purity specifications for recycled polymers with respect to particle size of undissolved matter and residual solvent content were specified.

- The CreaSolv® process has been optimized at laboratory scale for selected halogen free fractions provided by XRT separation, based on analytical data on the recyclate’s performance. Solvent based separations of ABS and PC/ABS have been carried out at laboratory scale. Subsequently, dissolved polymers were separated from undissolved particles and polymers, before solvents were separated from target polymers. Especially in case of PC/ABS, a loss of molecular weight was observed in initial trials. However, significant losses were avoided after process optimization. As there is no fixed level of molecular weight in waste plastics, the laboratory scale CreaSolv ® technology was applied to virgin ABS and PC/ABS too. Molecular weights were determined before processing and after dissolution, filtration and solvent separation, which resulted in a maximum loss of molecular weight of 7%. Target polymers were unequivocally identified as ABS and PC/ABS by FTIR spectroscopy and Melt Flow Rates values of recycled materials were well comparable to literature data.

Objective 3: Efficient recovery of target additives and critical minerals from Flame retarded plastic fraction (Sb2O3 and BFR fraction).

- European legal and non-legal limitations and standards for using recovered additives, critical minerals and metals in alternative applications have been identified, based in available literature. This information will be updated, according to the results from market surveys, which are in progress.

- Different plastic fractions produced from WEEE plastics in WP2 have been characterized using XFR and laboratory scale dissolution experiments with polymer selective solvents. Based on technically safe CreaSolv® formulations an advanced extraction approach was tested to purify
ABS. As a second unit operation, separation of Sb2O3 from ABS solutions was tested and optimized in laboratory scale. Based on resulting ABS shares, halogen and Sb2O3 concentrations and extraction yields, technical process specifications and key performance indicators (KPI) were defined. These include input specifications (size, halogen and Sb content), purity specifications for polymers, bromine concentrate and Sb2O3, selectivity of solvents and efficacy of cleaning and solvent recovery units of the process.

Objective 4: Efficient recovery of critical materials such as Cu, Co, Li and Graphite from EOL Li-Ion batteries.

- A comparative study has been conducted to give a comprehensive overview of the worldwide Li-Ion battery recycling technologies in order to compare performance with hereby-introduced hydrothermal recycling technology. The recycling potential of Cu, Co, Li and Graphite from lithium-ion batteries from notebooks, mobile phones, smartphones and tablet PCs as well as the TRLs of new recycling technologies and market situation and development has been evaluated.

- Subsequently, a complete recycling process chain with multiple treatment steps has been designed.

- Risk assessment of the treatment steps has been performed and the corresponding risk managing measures have been proposed.

- Construction and testing of the designed recycling technology were initiated and are now in progress.

- The methodology to elaborate the techno-economic and environmental analysis of recovery processes (recovery of Sb2O3 and Br from WEEE fractions and the critical metals and minerals´ recovery processes from Lithium-Ion batteries), the procedures to apply this methodology as well as the goals, scope and boundaries of this analysis have been defined. The data required from the different WPs to perform this evaluation have been defined and shared with the consortium. The Key Performances Indicators (KPI) to be considered for both techno-economic and environmental assessments have been selected. It has been defined that a combination of Multiple Criteria Decision Making process (MCDM) based on a mathematical algorithm and the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) methodology will be implemented.

Objective 5: Appropriate & eco-friendly upgrading of recovered materials to second-life applications.

- The work carried out during the first periodic report include the study and development of the most appropriate halogen free flame retardant system for recovered PC/ABS. Different flame retardant systems such as phosphorous based, nitrogen based and organo-modified natural clays have been evaluated. Furthermore, their effect on processing and mechanical properties of PC/ABS compounds has been studied. Promising FR candidates for compounding have been selected.
- Several parameters that can affect fire, thermal and mechanical performance of compounds, from the nature of the flame retardant systems, the ratio of ABS/PC blend and the nature of the polymer matrix PC and ABS have been studied in order to collect enough information to design CLOSEWEEE recovered compounds.

Objective 6: Improve the flow information to recyclers, by means of a Recycler Information Center (RIC).

- During the first project period, the Recyclers Information Center was created and seeded with sufficient content to demonstrate its functionality. More than 200 product-specific guides covering several devices, generic guides describing best practice for dismantling any device of a certain category and separating the various fractions as well as guides explaining further treatment steps for such fractions have been seeded to the platform. These guides consist of step-by-step instructions with clear visuals showing the best practice for disassembling a specific product without damaging any of the components.

- The Recyclers Information Center concept was also presented to various stakeholders with specific focus on the potential for components harvesting (e.g. recyclers, reuse actors and manufacturers, both individually and through various trade associations). After extended talks both a manufacturer and a recyclers' association have declared their willingness to support the platform, and this is expected to help convince other parties to collaborate during the second project period.

- The RIC platform is operational and is hosted on iFixit's server. It can be visited at the URL address http://www.werecycle.eu/. Access to RIC is password-protected. The web platform supports multiple languages and includes a translation dashboard.

Objective 7: Validation of CloseWEEE products performance in added-value applications and CloseWEEE technologies and processes.

- During the first project period, the validation of RIC has been started. As a first step the potential users of the RIC and their respective benefits have been mapped according to the different elements of the RIC platform. Various user groups could be identified ranging from European recyclers, international organizations to recyclers in emerging economies.

- Several guides describing best practice for dismantling devices (manually) and separating the various fractions, and explaining further treatment steps for such fractions have been produced.
Objective 8: Increasing range and yields of recovered materials from WEEE streams, increasing energy efficiency of recycling processes, reduced environmental footprint measured by qualitative and quantitative indicators.

- The methodology to evaluate the environmental performances of the CloseWEEE products and processes has been developed based on the Life Cycle Assessment principles and the data collection has started.
Objective 9: Economic and Environmental Validation of the products and processes developed in CloseWEEE.

- Methodologies to perform the environmental and economic validation have been defined and aligned. These will be Life Cycle Costs (LCC) and techno-economic (TEA) analyses to determine the economic feasibility of the project products and technologies and environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to determine the environmental impacts, respectively. The main elements of the LCA and LCC methodologies (goal and scope, functional unit, system boundaries, etc.) were defined and adjusted to the project goals. The collection of data required for the LCA and LCC activities has started through a dedicated template shared with the partners. The procedure for the application of the techno-economic analysis (TEA) has been defined. In parallel to the main LCA activity, a literature review was done to evaluate the environmental impacts of the WEEE dismantling.

Objective 10: Establishment of Ecodesign criteria for new EEE associated to target applications and establishment of support actions between labelling and green procurement initiatives and CloseWEEE.

- Existing legal and voluntary instruments have been analysed with respect to the D4R approaches (e.g. Directive for Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment, Waste Framework Directive, European Ecodesign Directive), which facilitate disassembly, identification and separation of hazardous substances, identification of plastics, use of compatible polymer types and minimum amount of different plastics types. In addition, all instruments have been screened for criteria requiring the use of post-consumer recycled plastics in new EEE. So far, the results indicate that D4R and use of recycled plastics are not sufficiently covered by the legal framework and labelling schemes. At this point, the emphasis is set on European and international initiatives with strong market uptake. Furthermore, green ecolabels with high market coverage are discussed as an instrument to introduce higher product environmental performance within the EEE sector.

- A draft criteria catalogue is established, which is based on the evidence from the research work in WP2, WP3 and WP5. The catalogue will be discussed and aligned with ongoing criteria currently developed by EPEAT and European labelling schemes.

Objective 11: Development and deployment of an effective dissemination plan of the CloseWEEE results toward relevant stakeholders and interested parties and development of an exploitation plan for preparing the market take-up and achieve the full exploitation of the project relevant results.

- Dissemination and communication plans along with an exploitation plan were developed early in the project and strategies have been set. Target stakeholders and collectives have been identified and both plans and collectives have been updated from their implementation in M6 so far.

- Some promising exploitable results have been identified and the business strategies to define the business models and lines will be defined after M18 according the project’s progress.
- A webpage was set and is updated with relevant news and public deliverables as well as the presence of the CloseWEEE project in social media (Twitter and LinkedIn). Brochures have been produced and distributed among the partner.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

On-line identification and separation of halogen and non-halogen polymer fractions and plastics types from WEEE streams and efficient recovery of high quality segregated target polymer fractions (PC/ABS and ABS).

• Target WEEE streams and pre-treatment to increase the recovery yield of the target polymer fractions: PC/ABS and ABS have been defined.

• X-Ray Transmission (XRT) and laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) have been evaluated to identify and separate halogen and non-halogen polymer fractions from WEEE plastics streams. According to the tests performed so far, LIBS detection shows promising results as an alternative to existing technical scale XRT systems. LIBS is a technology still in development and it has some application for identification, analysis and material separation in industry. In CloseWEEE, a LIBS-based plastics sorting prototype has been configured and will be constructed in the second stage of the project.

• Two approaches are being studied to separate the target polymers by type to obtain high quality PC/ABS and ABS, once an appropriate sorting of halogen and non-halogen plastic fractions from WEEE streams has been achieved : (i) The use of Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIR) and High Speed Laser Technologies. So far, both technologies have shown high accuracy in the sorting of target polymers out of Bromine-free fractions. Ultra High Speed Laser Polymer Sorting equipment is able to detect and separate polymers by type, separate multilayer polymers and contaminated polymers, (ii) Implementation of the CreaSolv® technology, based on a solvent based and selective fractionation of WEEE input streams. In the first period of the project, the CreaSolv® process requirements and KPIs were defined in order to selectively extract ABS and PC/ABS from mixed WEEE plastics. The process was optimized at laboratory scale. Melt Flow Rates values of recycled ABS and PC/ABS were well comparable to polymers available on the market.

Efficient recovery of target additives and critical minerals from Flame retarded plastic fraction (Sb2O3 and BFR fraction).

• The halogen rich fraction from WEEE plastic mix contains a high bromine load and requires an extensive removal of Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs). As some of these BFR have the potential to build highly toxic brominated dioxins and furans upon thermal treatment
(Weber and Kuch, 2003, Schlummer et al. 2007), a sound downstream treatment of the BFR by products is necessary. Therefore, the BFR by-product is considered as an expensive by-product of processing WEEE plastics and has a negative effect on the overall economics of the recovery of polymers from WEEE. For the first time CloseWEEE will therefore aim at producing valuable additive fractions, which may have a second life in new additives and polymers. Therefore, a bromine rich fraction with acceptable specifications will be provided and used as a secondary raw material for bromine in the bromine industry. In addition, Sb2O3 is used as a particulate synergist in brominated flame retardants and is present in the lower percent range in flame retarded WEEE plastics. As Sb has been identified to disturb the thermal bromine recovery process of the bromine industry and high Sb levels in recycled polymers may lower their economic value, it is a main target to separate Sb from the bromine fraction and the bromine free polymers. Arends et al. (2012) suggest a separating technology for particulate additives on the bases of filtration or centrifugation. Whereas filtration is a basic principle in solvent-based polymer recycling, fine filtration (~1μm) of polymer solutions is challenging and not well investigated in terms of robustness. Centrifugation has not been applied to polymer solutions in technical scale yet despite its wide applications fields in chemical and food processes. This may be due to safety considerations with respect to flash points of applied solvents. In order to separate Sb, CloseWEEE will study centrifugation as a separation technique in the CreaSolv® process with special focus to technical feasibility, process robustness and process safety. The CreaSolv® process provides a viable alternative to landfill and incineration as options in the management of WEEE plastics. It was reported that CreaSolv® is a substantially better environmental option than landfill and also a better option than incineration with energy recovery as it is a low energy consumption process and requires rather simple process equipment.

So far, different plastic fractions produced from WEEE plastics in WP2 have been characterized using XFR and laboratory scale dissolution experiments with polymer selective solvents. Halogen and Sb2O3 concentrations and extraction yields, process specifications and key performance indicators (KPI) were determined at lab scale.

Efficient recovery of critical materials such as Cu, Co, Li and Graphite from EOL Li-Ion batteries.

In CloseWEEE, an innovative process technology, enabling the recycling of critical and industrial materials at high yield, based on Hydrothermal Recovery Technology will be constructed and tested at lab scale. During the first part of the project a complete recycling process chain based on this technology with multiple treatment steps has been designed. A risk assessment of the treatment steps has been performed and the corresponding risk managing measures have been proposed.

Appropriate & eco-friendly upgrading of recovered materials to second-life applications.

International standards provide that the plastic materials used for Electric & Electronic equipment usually should meet high fire safety standards such as UL 94 V or similar flame retardant specification. BFRs are the most effective and traditionally used FR, but under severe thermal stress or when they are burnt in accidental fires or uncontrolled combustion some BFRs could form halogenated dioxins and furans. Therefore, the use of certain brominated flame retardants in EEE is banned by the RoHS Directive. In consequence, a family of halogen free flame retardants has been developed in recent years. In CloseWEEE the effect of different flame retardant systems such as phosphorous based, nitrogen based and organo-modified natural clays on processing, fire, thermal and mechanical properties of recovered PC/ABS compounds has been studied. The most promising FR candidates for compounding have been selected.

Improving the flow of information to recyclers through a Recyclers Information Center

Today, disassembly technicians are forced to innovate one product at a time. If they get good at disassembling a particular product, they will share the technique with other people on the line — but their knowledge does not benefit other recyclers. Batteries and LCD panels require separation prior to mechanical shredding. If they are not separated manually, workers risk exposure to hazardous substances—including mercury vapour, lead dust, and flame retardants. But mechanical separation is neither easy nor risk free. Providing technicians with model specific disassembly information will speed disassembly and mitigate safety hazards.

The RIC platform that has been created in CloseWEEE during the first part of the project, is an innovative documentation resource that is visual, cloudbased, and collaborative. This platform is built to standardize work instructions clearly and effectively—reducing mistakes and revealing improvement opportunities. Recyclers will gain information for electronics disassembly that speeds device demanufacturing and improves the identification and handling of hazardous materials. During the first project period, the RIC was seeded with sufficient content to demonstrate its functionality. More than 200 product-specific guides covering several devices, generic guides describing best practice for manual dismantling of devices of certain categories and separating the various fractions as well as guides explaining further treatment steps for such fractions have been seeded to the platform. The validation of RIC has been started. As a first step the potential users´ groups of the RIC and their respective benefits have been mapped.

Optimized Eco-design:

The technology research of CloseWEEE broadens significantly the possibilities for ecodesign of EE products as both, use of recycled polymers and separation of polymer fractions at end of life will face a developing supply and demand market respectively. Only under these conditions, it makes sense to implement ecodesign approaches, such as design for disassembly, design for (material) recycling. These new opportunities however need to be matched with product development trends and latest EE products need to be assessed regarding separability of target polymers at end of life and suitability as replacement for virgin polymers in the various applications. CloseWEEE will establish the required feedback loop from recycling technology research to product development. This will lead to a set of ecodesign criteria and guidance targeting directly at manufacturers, i.e. product designers, but also policy makers and labeling schemes. This will lead potentially to a first legal implementation of mandatory Design for Recycling criteria for electrical and electronics products ever. During the first part of the project existing legal and voluntary instruments have been analyzed with respect to the D4R approaches. In addition, all instruments have been screened for requirements for the use of post-consumer recycled plastics in new EEE.

Envisaged Socio-Economic Impacts:

• CloseWEEE will contribute to the recovery of secondary raw materials (engineering plastics and additives from WEEE plastics’ brominated fraction) manufactured from strategic non-renewable resources (oil) and to reintroduce them into the market in cradle to cradle applications. The recovery of certain polymer fractions such as PC/ABS or ABS and the flame retardants contained in them, which have not established a recycling system yet, is being evaluated. This means a big innovation step for the recovery of certain kinds of secondary materials that right now cannot be sorted. Moreover, R&D of non-conventional processing technologies will bring high-grade quality plastic streams to the market at reasonable prices in straight competition with virgin material. In this sense, CloseWEEE is aimed to increase the recovery yield of PC/ABS and ABS plastic fractions to 80% of their content in the WEEE plastic input; increase the application of recycled PC/ABS in new EEE enclosures with a minimum share of 20% recycled polymer. On the other hand, if BFR are replaced by non-brominated-FRs, which is one of the goals of CloseWEEE, it will be possible to distinguish the flame retarded plastic parts from plastic parts with restricted Brominated-FRs, even by the use of more traditional screening technologies, and the plastic parts may be recycled. In addition, Antimony (Sb) is a rare metal and mining is performed in a limited number of countries, all outside the EU. CloseWEEE addresses the risk related with antimony supply and will help to assure the future Sb supply from European “urban” resources. The project is aimed to raise recovery yields of BFR and Sb2O3 to 80% of their content in the WEEE plastic input.

The plastics demand in Europe accounts for 47 million tonnes, with a 5,4% share for EEE. However, the majority of WEEE plastics are exported to developing countries. This is in part due to the high cost of proper disposal (usually by incineration) of plastic fractions containing halogens in the EU. CloseWEEE will help to keep these resources within the EU in the future. Electronic enclosures of consumer and IT equipment are a significant market where PC/ABS and ABS are widely used. Besides TVs, mobile devices (laptops, mobile phones) are particularly vulnerable to flammability because they carry their own power (and ignition) source.

• Li-Ion batteries are state-of-the-art for mobile IT equipment. Since market launch, consumption vastly increased year by year, with currently 40.000 tons annually put on EU-market. One of the CloseWEEE objectives is the recovery of critical raw materials such as cobalt, lithium, and graphite from lithium-Ion batteries. Even considering worldwide activities in Li-Ion battery recycling, no industrial or pilot plant exists, which could meet legislative minimum recycling targets. In addition to this, no technical solution is available to regain critical raw materials such as graphite from discarded batteries. A majority of contained metals and high value materials, like electrolyte/conducting salt are finally lost with processing waste (slag, sludges, emissions, etc.). The enormous tonnage and economic volume shall be recovered through an innovative combination of processes. CloseWEEE is aimed to significantly increase the recycling quota of battery materials. For instance, to reduce the losses of Co and graphite during treatment of waste Li-Ion batteries by at least 50%.

• Informal recycling in non-EU countries frequently involves highly toxic uncontrolled incineration of plastics parts, which according to numerous investigations yields substantial health hazards for workers and dwellers in the neighbourhood of such treatment sites.
Additives and flame retardants are a major problem in this instance. Creating a technology for plastics recycling and thus also a domestic market for the polymer fractions, which include these critical additives and flame retardants, helps to safeguard people elsewhere from the emissions of incineration.

In addition, the energy consumption target of PC/ABS and ABS recyclates for CloseWEEE is 30% less than the reported primary energy consumption of virgin polymers. Anticipating an annual processing of 20,000 t of PC/ABS and ABS, once the results of CloseWEEE are implemented after the end of the project, the annual primary energy savings total in 750 TJ/a in Europe. The Global Warming Potential of the recyclates in kg CO2-eq. should be at least 30% lower than for the virgin material.

• The increased flow of information to recyclers through a Recycler Information Center (RIC) would lead to improve worker safety. Also for downstream processes, the risk of erroneously feeding battery containing units into shredders is reduced through proper dismantling practice. In the last few years at least 3 recycling facilities faced severe fires due to battery ignition. The general dismantling procedures and guidelines on preparations for ReUse are envisaged to have great value for recyclers in developing countries. In addition, the product-specific dismantling procedures as well as fractions specific and downstream options generated by RIC will be of benefit for recyclers in Europe as well as other regions around the globe. Therefore, during the further development of the RIC beneficiaries from all global regions will be taken into account.

• CloseWEEE will ultimately contribute to the overarching goals of the EIP, namely a better raw materials supply (through recovery of more kinds of materials at higher total recycling rates) and the creation of jobs in WEEE recycling (by enhancing the economics of labour-intensive dismantling and of EEE recycling in general, along with technology leadership in battery and high-grade polymer recycling). As intended by the EIP strategy CloseWEEE will yield “a significantly improved recycling of collected WEEE arising from the new collection targets set out in the 2012 WEEE Directive”. Given the crucial role of material separation and given the relevant share of plastics in WEEE the new recycling quotas will be achieved only with a substantial improvement of disassembly processes and recovery of polymers. This insight guided the set-up of CloseWEEE.

• CloseWEEE addresses the following regulations and contributes to achieve and advance the related EU policy targets: (i) RoHS Directive 2002/95/EC: Restriction of Hazardous Substances, (ii) The new WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU, whose aim for the EU is to recycle at least 85% of WEEE generated by 2016, (iii) Labelling and Green Procurement Initiatives such as EU Eco-flower and EPEAT, (iv) Ecodesign of Energy-related Products Directive 2009/125/EG Directive 2006/66/EC on separation and explicit treatment of batteries and Regulation EU/493/2012 concerning minimum recycling targets which sets the frame to define product design requirements related to inter alia material efficiency, recyclability and reusability.

Related information

Record Number: 192928 / Last updated on: 2016-12-15
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