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EU Training Network for Resource Recovery through Enhanced Landfill Mining

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NEW-MINE (EU Training Network for Resource Recovery through Enhanced Landfill Mining)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-08-31

Europe has somewhere between 150,000 and 500,000 landfill sites, with an estimated 90% of them being “non-sanitary” landfills, predating the EU Landfill Directive of 1999. These older landfills tend to be filled with municipal solid waste and often lack any environmental protection technology. In order to avoid future environmental and health problems, many of these landfills will soon require expensive remediation measures. This situation might appear bleak, but it does present us with an exciting opportunity for a combined resource-recovery and remediation strategy, which will drastically reduce future remediation costs, reclaim valuable land, while at the same time unlocking valuable resources. However, the widespread adoption of Enhanced Landfill Mining (ELFM) in the EU, as envisaged by NEW-MINE, urgently requires skilled scientists, engineers, economists and policy makers who can develop cost-effective, environmentally friendly ELFM practices and regulatory frameworks. All this demands a European commitment to concerted, inter- and transdisciplinary research and innovation. NEW-MINE trains 15 early-stage researchers (ESRs) in all aspects of landfill mining, in terms of both technological innovation and multi-criteria assessments. The technological innovation follows a value-chain approach, from advanced landfill exploration, mechanical processing, hybrid plasma/solar thermochemical conversion and upcycling, while the multi-criteria assessment methods allow to compare combined resource-recovery/remediation ELFM methods with the “Do-Nothing”, “Classic remediation” and “Classic landfill mining with (co-)incineration” scenarios (See Figure 1). By training the ESRs in scientific, technical and soft skills, they become highly sought-after scientists and engineers for the rapidly emerging landfill-mining and broader raw-materials industries of Europe.

The overall project flow is shown in Figure 2. The 15 ESR topics are linked through an ELFM flowsheet, in which ESR1 is performing geophysical exploration of landfills, which are subsequently excavated and treated by different mechanical separation processes (ESR2-3-4) to produce different fractions, which are subsequently processed to recover materials (e.g. metals, building sand) and further processed to produce a refuse derived fuel (RDF) for work package 2. Work package 2 studies the conversion of the RDF to syngas, metals and slags and ashes (ESR5-9), while WP3 studies the metal/slag-ash separation and the further treatment of slags/ashes to produce inorganic polymers and/or glass ceramics (ESR10-12). Work package 4 performs an integrated assessment of the process and of ELFM as a whole (ESR13-15).
Work package 1 studied geophysical landfill exploration and mechanical processing of waste excavated from landfills. Excavations have taken place at the Mont-Saint-Guibert landfill (MSG) in Belgium and the Halbenrain landfill in Austria. State-of-the-art mechanical biological treatment (MBT) was applied at Halbenrain, whereas at MSG a combination of a novel ballistic separator followed by lab-, and pilot-scale processing was tested. In the mechanical processing, multiple light, heavy, metallic and fine fractions were produced which were further treated within the WP and delivered to WP2 and WP3.
Work package 2 studied the thermal conversion of RDF (i.e. the light fraction produced in work package 1 through mechanical processing, composed of plastics, wood, etc.), for the production of synthetic gas, slags (so-called plasmastone) or ashes (depending on the thermal process) and metals. The 4 PhD topics were interlinked to jointly form a novel thermal conversion process for RDF.
Work package 3 studied the upcycling of slags (plasmastone) and ashes, by-products of the gasification process of WP2. The work package studied on the one hand the improvement of the quality of the thermal valorisation residues (i.e.; removal of metals and hazardous components, increase of the glass content) through thermal conversion, using smelting and microwave heating methods. On the other hand, the use of the materials obtained as a component of cement, inorganic polymers and glass ceramics was investigated.
Work package 4 developed a multi-criteria assessment for landfill mining concepts and technologies. The three ESRs belonging to WP4 have been working on sustainability assessments of these emerging technologies and concepts, by addressing their environmental, economic and societal impacts. Given the early phase of development of the ELFM concept and related technologies, a key objective was to develop learning-oriented assessment approaches to obtain in-depth knowledge on the factors and conditions that influence the impacts of ELFM projects. The methods developed were applied to specific ELFM cases as well as in a wide range of landfill management and landfill mining scenarios and settings encountered within the European boarders.

The NEW-MINE project website (http://new-mine.eu/) is the main hub for communication of project results and will remain operational for 5 years after the end of the project, after which it will be transferred to the SIM2 KU Leuven website (https://kuleuven.sim2.be/). Among others, the following items are available on the website: Summaries of work package results, extended abstract of the PhDs, contact data of ESRs and consortium members, publications, newsletters, policy briefs, blogposts, conference proceedings, Detritus special issue on ELFM, project video’s, summary of the ELFM session organized in the European parliament.
NEW-MINE develop and integrates cutting-edge, eco-friendly ELFM technologies to valorise Europe’s 150,000– 500,000 landfills, thereby recovering resources (materials, energy, land), while mitigating future environmental and health risks associated with landfills as well as avoiding enormous landfill-remediation costs. Technologies can spill over to other sectors (e.g. treatment of fresh waste, use of secondary raw materials in the building sector). Project results are communicated and disseminated widely (publications, policy briefs, ELFM symposium, different video’s, etc.).
NEW-MINE provides training in all aspects of ELFM, not only to ESRs but also to all consortium members and external partners (e.g. through summer school). NEW-MINE ESRs are the logical employees of industry, academia and public sector in this field. Contact with future employers is guaranteed through the presence of these actors within the consortium and in the broader ELFM network.
NEW-MINE is well embedded in/ and actively contributes to the growth of the network on ELFM. A strong link to national/E.U. initiatives ensures the long-term sustainability of the network. Continuation of the network is ensured by active participation of the NEW-MINE partners within the EURELCO consortium, the organization of International Academic Symposia on ELFM, engagement in upscaling ELFM technologies for both MSW/USW and industrial residues, organization of the second seminar on ELFM in the European Parliament (November 20, 2018 - see https://kuleuven.sim2.be/2nd-elfm-seminar-european-parliament-2011/).
Figure 2: Overview of the NEW-MINE WPs and the value-chain approach
Figure 1: Comparison of different scenarios for the EU’s landfills