Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Enhanced eco-friendly scrap metal recovery

European steel manufacturers rely on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with electric arc furnaces (EAFs) that reuse waste metallic scrap in order to remain competitive. EU-funded researchers developed a novel process that promises to improve the recyclation process while protecting the environment.
Enhanced eco-friendly scrap metal recovery
Recycling of scrap metal produces EAF dust consisting of zinc, iron and other metals. In fact, the amount of zinc in the dust is on the rise due to increased use of galvanised metal (coated with a protective layer of zinc) in the automobile industry.

The recyclation process uses a tremendous amount of energy, emitting greenhouse gases (GHGs) and contributing to global warming. It also produces dioxins, residues that must be disposed of in landfills as hazardous waste.

European researchers supported by funding of the ‘Recycling of EAF dust by an integrated leach-grinding process’ (REDILP) project set out to develop a novel process to remove dangerous heavy metals and zinc lead dioxide from the dust and use the remaining iron-containing metal as raw material for the EAFs.

Investigators developed a hydrometallurgical ‘cold’ process consisting of a leaching phase based on grinding activation together with precipitation. Grinding and leaching dissolve the dust to form a solution from which specific metals can be removed. Precipitation then enables the individual metals to be separated out as solids again. The novelty consisted of integrating grinding and leaching in a single step. The entire process occurred in a closed circuit to yield valuable zinc, iron and lead without residues.

After laboratory experiments and process optimisation, a prototype plant was constructed demonstrating successful zinc recovery.

integrated leaching and grinding of EAF dust resulted in decreased processing and disposal costs. It also reduced the environmental burden imposed by extra energy consumption and hazardous landfill waste. Finally, the novel process resulted in recovery and thus preservation of valuable natural resources.

Commercialisation of the Redilp process should thus enhance the competitiveness of Europe’s SMEs involved in the steel manufacturing industry while also protecting the environment.

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