Recycling Product News Logo

This ad will close in 15 seconds

New EU 'Urban Mining' Tools map valuable resources in e-Waste, scrap vehicles and mine waste

Standardized, consolidated data helps to identify recovery potential of secondary raw materials worth € billions wasted annually


Expert organizations have united to create the first European database of valuable materials available for "urban mining" from scrap vehicles, spent batteries, waste electronic and electrical equipment, and mining wastes.

The Urban Mine Platform, created by 17 partners in project ProSUM (Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Wastes), presents the flows of precious and base metals and critical raw materials in products in use and throughout their journey to end of life. 

The database reveals the amount of valuable materials recovered or lost in the EU's scrap vehicles, batteries, computers, phones, gadgets, appliances and other high tech products discarded annually - roughly 18 million tonnes in all -- the weight of 3 million African elephants.

The EU, Norway and Switzerland generated around 10.5 million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in 2016 - about 23% of the world total.  In addition, 2 million tonnes of batteries and some 7 to 8 million tonnes of EU vehicles reach their end-of-life annually.  All represent a rich source of secondary critical raw materials (CRMs).  

The recently published Global e-Waste Monitor reported that the world's 44.7 metric tonnes of e-waste alone (not including vehicles) in 2016 contained €55 billion worth of precious metals and other high value materials.

The Urban Mine Platform contains data for elements and materials in high abundance in these waste products, mainly base metals, precious metals, and critical raw materials.

Dynamic charts offer detailed data and market intelligence on:

  • The number and type of products placed on the market, in-stock (in use and hibernating), and generated as waste
  • The compositions of key components, materials and elements, such as aluminium, copper, gold or neodymium, in batteries, electronic and electrical equipment (EEE), and vehicles
  • Waste flows, including amounts collected, estimates for small batteries and EEE in unsorted municipal solid waste, exported used vehicles, as well as the amount of vehicles, batteries and EEE of unknown whereabouts. 

Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine

The ProSUM consortium says "urban mining" to recover valuable CRMs from wastes is vital for securing ongoing supplies for manufacturing and limit dependence on non-EU suppliers. 

To that end, the project partners created from over 800 source documents and databases "a state of the art knowledge base, using best available data in a harmonized and updateable format, which allows the recycling industry and policymakers to make more informed investment and policy decisions to increase the supply and recycling of secondary raw materials." It contains "all readily available data on market inputs, stocks in use and hibernated, compositions and waste flows of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), vehicles and batteries for all EU 28 Member States plus Switzerland and Norway."

Pascal Leroy, Secretary General of the WEEE Forum, a Brussels-based not-for-profit association and ProSUM project coordinator states: "Three years in the making, this consolidated database is the world's first 'one stop shop' knowledge data platform on CRMs in waste products -- easy to access, structured, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, up-to-date, impartial, broad in scope, standardized and harmonized, and verifiable." 

In its report, the consortium says that "if all of the EEE in stock in households, businesses and public space was shared out between each EU28+2 inhabitant, each person would own close to 44 EEE products plus another 12 (energy saving) lamps and 33 light fittings, which are counted separately. In addition, there is 0.50 vehicle per person in the fleet. In vehicles, electronics and other applications, there are another 40 batteries in stock per person." 

Each EU inhabitant, the report says, would own 250 kg of electronics -- 3.5 times the average adult weight -- in addition to 17 kg of batteries and almost 600 kg of vehicle.

Product trends: The effect of 'more,' 'lighter,' 'smarter' products on raw materials consumption

The report notes that a smartphone contains around 40 different critical raw materials, with a concentration of gold 25 to 30 times that of the richest primary gold ores.  Furthermore, miningdiscarded high tech products produces 80% less carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gold compared with primary mining operations.

ProSUM has shown that an increasing number of products contain precious resources such as neodymium (vital for making permanent magnets in motors), indium (used in flat panel displays) and cobalt (used in rechargeable batteries). The Urban Mine Platform makes it possible to see the stocks and flows of these products.

Jaco Huisman of the United Nations University, and ProSUM Scientific Coordinator, states: "Until now, data on such critical raw materials have been produced by a variety of institutions, including government agencies, universities, NGOs, and industry, with the information scattered across various databases in different formats and difficult to compare or aggregate and often representing an outdated snapshot for a certain year only.  The ProSUM effort helps remedy that problem, and enables the identification of so-called "hotspots" - the largest stocks of specific materials." 

Electrical and Electronic Equipment in the urban mine

 The ProSUM project successfully harmonized all available information to map the very dynamic development of the Urban Mine over time.  As illustrated in the figure, the entire stock of electronic products constitutes a considerable, and for some materials, rapidly changing Urban Mine for the years 2000 to 2020 (last 5 years projected). The figure displays for the first time the combined effect of rapidly increasing sales in numbers of electronic products, increasing miniaturization of printed circuit board volumes and products appearing (like tablets) and disappearing (like cathode ray tubes) from the market.  

These product trends affect the quantity of raw materials in the Urban Mine where, for example, plastics and aluminium content are increasing, copper and gold are stabilizing, and printed circuit board tonnages are in decline.

Europe can potentially mine 2 million tonnes of batteries per year

With respect to batteries, the report points to a sharp jump in the European Union, Switzerland, Norway since year 2000, with 2.7 million tonnes expected to be put on the market in 2020, up from roughly 1.7 million tonnes in 2000. 

European authorities know the fate of only half of the estimated 2 million tonnes of batteries discarded in 2015, about 90% of them lead-based. 

Other types of batteries available for urban mining -- nickel-metal hydride, zinc-based and lithium-based -- are a significant source of lithium (7,800 tonnes), cobalt (21,000 tonnes) and manganese (114,000 tonnes).

Vehicles: An increasingly rich source of critical raw materials 

Europe's end of life vehicles (ELV) represent a large source of secondary base metals like steel (213 million tonnes), aluminium (24 million tonnes) and copper (7.3 million tonnes), as well as platinum and palladium used in car catalysts. 

Increasingly, vehicles also contain large amounts of critical raw materials due to electronics, as well as alloying elements used in steel, aluminum and magnesium.

Few electric vehicles have yet reached end of life.  With sales rising, these will be a source of growing importance for secondary raw materials like neodymium, lithium and cobalt.

The report notes that more than 40% of registered vehicles are "of unknown whereabouts" -- a gap attributable in part to unreliable data on used vehicles traded within the EU, unreported recycling, and exports beyond the EU.

 Mining Waste

The project is also amassing information about resources available in mining waste, which deposits are commonly very large but of low metal grade. New data, such as location, type of waste and origin available in a special extension of the database at Minerals4EU

Mining waste differs in many respects from the other product groups in ProSUM in that there is no EU legislation that requires recycling, there is no major recycling industry, and Eurostat statistics on mining waste are sparse and only at country level. 

What's next?

The project outcomes are embedded in the European Commission's (EC) Raw Materials Information System (RMIS)in order to create a more comprehensive and structured repository of knowledge related to primary and secondary sources consumed in the EU, relevant for many stakeholders:

  • Manufacturers can gain confidence about future recycled raw material supplies. 
  • Recyclers will have better intelligence about the changes in product types and material content which impact on their business and provide future recovery potential. 
  • The mining industry will have greater certainty about the quantities and types of materials needed in the marketplace, mitigating risk and improving profitability.
  • Policymakers will be better informed on raw material supplies, which affect jobs and financial institutions, and how materials are linked to energy consumption.
  • Researchers will have better data quantity, quality, completeness and reliability.

Maintaining the Urban Mine Platform

The consortium has developed detailed recommendations to create better quality data and continuously update the database, including:

  • Improving the characterisation of CRM content in products and waste
  • Further quantifying stocks and flows in the urban mine and describing all kinds of complementary and leakage flows
  • Continue harmonizing data, EU reporting and the interoperability of data and datasets
  • Expand Urban Mine Platform's scope to recoverable materials in other waste streams
 "The ProSUM project has advanced the knowledge base for extractive wastes by assessing the availability of data on CRMs in mining waste deposits and expanding the scope of the Minerals Knowledge Data Platform to include more mining, processing, and waste reprocessing activities in future."  -- Katerina Adam, Associate Professor, School of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering, National Technical University of Athens
 Better knowledge of amounts and content of critical raw material is fundamental for both research in the field of recycling and as a background material to convince a board in a recycling company to fund investment in recycling capacity. Legislators need similar information to develop for society efficient Extended Producer Liability Systems. The database developed by the ProSUM project is a very good start and one step closer to a more circular economy." -- Christer Forsgren, CTO, Stena Metall, and Adjunct Professor in Industrial Material Recycling, Chalmers Technical University, Sweden.

More from Electronics Recycling

Wisetek expands US workforce and facilities to meet the escalating need for efficient, ethical IT asset disposal

Enterprise Ireland client Wisetek, a leader in global IT Asset Disposal (ITAD) reuse and data destruction services has announced that the company is growing its facilities, capabilities, and workforce within the US. The announcement was made at an Enterprise Ireland business leadership event in Washington today, attended by the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

ISRI2019 to host first public ​hearing on revision of R2 e-waste standard

The latest draft of the R2v3 standard has been released for public comment following an extensive process to revise and strengthen the standard to reflect the rapidly growing and changing electronics recycling industry. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) will be hosting the first public hearing on the revision during the ISRI2019 Convention and Exhibition, April 9 at 5:45 pm, in room 403A, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

GEEP’s Alberta facilities are staying ahead of the curve on managing ITAD and e-waste

GEEP Canada Inc. is a division of The Giampaolo Group of Companies, based in Ontario. The Giampaolo Group is involved in multiple industries, from aluminum re-melt to real estate, and is also one of North America's  largest metals recyclers through the company's Triple M Metal division. GEEP (Global Electric Electronic Processing) specializes in managing the complete life cycle of IT assets through electronic asset management and end-of-life recycling. The company has nine locations throughout North America, including two Alberta facilities and plants in B.C., Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, North Carolina and Costa Rica.

​Sony Electronics receives e-Stewards Enterprise designation

Sony Electronics has joined as a member of a growing number of e-Stewards Enterprise companies. These corporations and institutions are committed to using the most globally responsible recycling companies that are certified to the e-Stewards standard. The e-Stewards standard disallows exporting hazardous electronic waste to developing countries and employs the most rigorous criteria to prevent data breaches from discarded hardware. Besides being a leading manufacturer of consumer electronic products, Sony Electronics is committed to designing with the environment in mind and helping to eliminate externalities throughout the supply and disposal chains. Beyond its efforts with regards to recycling, Sony's vision is to aim for a zero environmental footprint by 2050 to conserve resources and curb climate change. 

Greentec launching “It’s Easy Being Green” Campaign in Southwestern Ontario to encourage responsible E-recycling

Ontario-based e-waste company Greentec has launched "It's Easy Being Green," a an e-waste recycling initiative that will provide local drop off boxes for individuals and families as well as pickup services for businesses. The company says they are encouraging southwestern Ontario residents to safely and securely recycle their e-waste in 2019, and with numerous certifications, including ISO 14001, OHSAS, R2 and NAID, is well positioned as a leader in the recycling community. 

New report finds growth in online sales of electronics is enabling some producers to neglect EPR

A new report from OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) has found that the rapid growth in online sales of electronic goods is enabling some producers and retailers to shirk their responsibilities for the environmental impact of their products, normally enforced through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) systems. The report estimates this occurs with 5-10 percent of online electronics sales, meaning lower collection rates for items at the end of their life cycle and reduced financing for waste management.

Ontario Environment Ministry to outline upcoming changes to WEEE and Hazardous Waste stewardship in the province

An important component in the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan is moving Ontario's existing waste diversion programs to the producer responsibility model. Transitioning Ontario's waste diversion programs includes two concurrent steps: 

  • Winding up the existing waste diversion programs and industry funding organizations under the Waste Diversion Transition Act (WDTA); and,
  • Putting in place regulations under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act (RRCEA) to make producers fully responsible.

Prince Edward Island approves Call2Recycle Canada as official single-use and rechargeable battery stewardship program

Call2Recycle Canada, Inc., Canada's consumer battery collection and recycling organization, has been approved by the Prince Edward Island Department of Communities, Land and Environment as a regulated battery stewardship program to collect and recycle consumer batteries. Its five-year, all-battery consumer collection and recycling plan will be implemented in early 2019. 

free-paper-airplane

Get our newsletter

Learn more

Electronic Recycling Association donates over 500 refurbished IT devices to 27 organizations

The Toronto-based Electronic Recycling Association (ERA) has confirmed donation of over 500 laptops, computers, printers and cell phones to individuals in need, as of GivingTuesday, which takes place following U.S. Thanksgiving - this year on Tuesday, November 27. Every year this non-profit event aims to donate more equipment than the last. This year they have succeeded with their donations totalling 547 IT devices, a 50% increase from 2017. 

Greentec now one of the most advanced e-waste processors in Canada

Greentec, an Ontario-based e-waste recycling solutions company, now has exclusive technology to safely handle LCD displays during the process of converting discarded electronics into new materials, making it the most advanced e-waste company of its kind in the country, according to Greentec.  The company uses innovative Lamp, LCD and Laptop waste recycling technology to remove the hazardous materials typically found in these items, including mercury vapours and other heavy metals. The automated procedure ensures there is no human contact with hazardous materials.  

TOMRA's new-generation X-TRACT features dual processing technology, multi-density channels and application packages

TOMRA Sorting Recycling has introduced a new generation of X-TRACT machine with advanced sorting technology that allows a broader range of market segments to take advantage of its ability to boost purity levels. Today's XTRACT features innovative Dual Processing Technology to enhance final purity levels; multi-density channels for more precise classification and sorting of materials; and a broad range of application packages.

‘Avoid the Spark' Campaign Continues Battery Safety Awareness in California

Throughout October, the Avoid the Spark campaign -- a public education effort to reduce battery safety incidents -- returns to the Bay Area to engage the community. Efforts include local county battery collections, a cornerstone event benefiting the California Fire Foundation, and the launch of a dedicated battery safety resource webpage, www.avoidthespark.com. This second phase builds on the Avoid the Spark campaign launch in May, spurred by the growing epidemic of battery-related fires at recycling and waste facilities along with the hidden dangers of trashing lithium-based batteries.

​Inaugural International E-Waste Day aims to raise public awareness

International E-Waste Day has been developed by the WEEE Forum, an international association of e-waste collection schemes, and 26 of its members and involves around 40 different organisations in 20 different countries worldwide. The inaugural event, set for Saturday October 13th, is being used to raise the public profile of e-waste and encourage consumers to correctly dispose of their e-waste with the resulting increase in re-use and recycling rates on the day itself and into the future.

free-magazine-subscription

Get Our Magazine

Paper or Digital delivered monthly to you

Subscribe or Renew Learn more

Bikeshare companies called out for dumping "e-Waste bikes"

In the wake of multiple scandalous discoveries of piles of used Ofo and Lime rideshare bikes in the US and China, the Basel Action Network (BAN) and its e-waste recycling program, e-Stewards, is calling on all bicycle and scooter rideshare companies, and the city governments that license them, to establish responsible end-of-life policies to ensure maximal reuse and safe and responsible recycling for those bikes and scooters that cannot be reused. 

ERA and Hi Tech Recyclers partnership results in recycling of over 700 tons of e-waste

The Electronic Recycling Association (ERA) has been working to reduce unnecessary electronic waste since 2004 throughout Canada. Many of us are unaware of the toxic chemicals that derive from electronic devices. Take a cell phone as an example, it has over 500 components and many contain toxic metals such as mercury, lead, beryllium, and cadmium. Over the past five years the ERA has been working with Hi Tech Recyclers, an Alberta Recycling (ARMA) certified recycler, to recycle e-waste from the province, comprised of unusable TV's, printers and electronics that could not be reused.   

Global Waste Recycling Market Outlook 2018 report reveals only 20 to 25 percent e-waste documented as collected and recycled

Frost & Sullivan's recent analysis, Global Waste Recycling Market Outlook, 2018, reveals close to 48.2 million tonnes of eWaste was generated in 2017, of which only 20 to 25 percent was documented to be collected and recycled. The remaining waste was either landfilled or disposed of unsafely or illegally in lesser developed countries. This scenario is likely to persist in the absence of stringent regulations, closed-loop supply chains, and greater producer responsibility. China made a market-altering decision when it announced a ban on the import of 24 categories of recyclables and solid waste by the end of 2017. This decision will force the world's biggest waste importers, which include the UK, the US, Europe, and Japan, to build new recycling infrastructure in their own facilities or look to other Southeast Asian countries for waste management. 

TES to Acquire EGR

TES has acquired 100% of the share capital of EGR Beteiligungs GmbH (EGR), a leading recycler based in Herten, Germany. Since formation in 1993, EGR has provided technology recycling solutions across mainland Europe supporting WEEE programs and B2B / B2C nationwide take-back solutions. The acquisition further develops TES's vision to deliver more connected lifecycle solutions to their clients throughout Europe.

BAN calls on Thailand and all Asian countries to ratify Global e-Waste Dumping Ban

The Basel Action Network (BAN) has warned South and Southeast Asian nations that they will become the next, after Thailand, to be hit by a tidal wave of electronic and plastic wastes from North America and Europe, if they don't move to ban the import of such wastes by ratifying an international agreement called the Basel Ban Amendment. The Ban Amendment would amend the existing Basel Convention, now agreed by 194 countries, to make it illegal to export hazardous wastes such as electronic wastes (e-waste) for any reason from developed countries of the OECD and EU blocs to developing countries. 

CE certification for TerraCycle's BulbEater3 and 3L bulb crushing systems

TerraCycle's efficient drum-top bulb crushing systems, the BulbEater3 and BulbEater3L, have received CE certification from the European Commission's Directorate-General (DG) for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. Obtaining a Declaration of Conformity (DoC) is essential for the sale and distribution of a product in the European Economic Area and other regions. The BulbEater system had to meet the strict standards set forth by European Union Directive 2006/42/EC on Machinery to receive a DoC.

Hasbro teams up with TerraCycle to give toys and games new life

Hasbro, Inc., the global play and entertainment company, recently launched a new toy and game recycling pilot program with TerraCycle, a global leader in product recycling. During the pilot program, consumers can collect and send their well-loved Hasbro toys and games to TerraCycle, who will recycle them into materials that can be used in the construction of play spaces, flower pots, park benches, and other innovative uses.

​Sims Recycling Solutions (SRS) expands e-waste separation technologies at Netherlands facility

Sims Recycling Solutions (SRS), a leading global provider of electronics recycling and IT asset disposition (ITAD) services, has expanded their processing lines at the company's Eindhoven, Netherlands e-waste facility. This site, known to be the largest e-waste (WEEE) recycling operation in the region, added enhancements that include metals and plastics separation technologies. 

ERA announces rebranding to Electronic Reusing Association in time for organization's 15th anniversary

The Electronic Recycling Association (ERA), the Calgary-based non-profit organization addressing the growing problem of e-waste and the increasing 'digital divide' has announced the business' rebrand to the Electronic Reusing Association. This comprehensive rebrand elevates the focus on reuse rather than recycle and this will be evident in their new logo and website within the coming months. 

CDO of Sims Metal Management offers insight on future of e-waste

Sims Recycling Solutions (SRS), a leading provider of global IT asset disposition (ITAD) services was proud to have Steve Skurnac, chief development officer of Sims Metal Management, of which SRS is a part, as a representative at the 17th International Electronics Recycling Congress IERC 2018. This event, held Jan. 17-19 in Salzburg, Austria, brought more than 500 recycling professionals together to discuss new technologies, regulations, manufacturing processes and raw materials values. 

free-paper-airplane

Get our newsletter

Learn more

​Inaugural Global Recycling Day is Sunday March 18

As part of a worldwide effort to promote the importance of recycling on the first-ever Global Recycling Day this Sunday, March 18, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) is calling on businesses, communities, policymakers, and individuals to increase their commitment to recycling and recognize scrap as an important resource. Recyclable materials are valuable commodities that play a pivotal role in environmental protection, energy conservation, and sustainability. 

European industry's online platform focused on how to best recycle E- waste

In an attempt to respond to recyclers' quest for information about the presence of materials and components in electronic waste that require separate treatment, producers and producer responsibility organisations have teamed up to create "Information for Recyclers - I4R", a unique one-stop source platform aimed at providing a whole range of information and guidance on how to handle WEEE: http://www.i4r-platform.eu. The platform was launched at the end of February.

​PELLENC ST and SESOTEC agree to partnership

Pellenc ST and Sesotec GmbH recently concluded a new partnership to complement their market and product portfolio in the high-tech recyclables sorting sector. This agreement covers the distribution of flake sorting equipment for plastics recycling applications in France, Japan and the UK and sensor-based sorting equipment for End-of-Life Vehicles, Metal scrap and the WEEE-recycling markets in France and Japan. For other territories and other waste sorting applications, new opportunities will be treated on a case-by-case basis.

​Call2Recycle Canada receives preeminent sustainability certification

Call2Recycle Canada, Inc., the country's leading consumer battery stewardship and recycling organization, has achieved the latest Responsible Recycling Practices Standard (R2) certification, R2:2013. R2 is the leading standard for recycling organizations and is recognized by Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), an electronic recycling non-profit that serves as the housing-body for the R2 standard. The distinction reinforces Call2Recycle's commitment to following stringent requirements on the safe and secure collecting and processing of batteries. 

Call2Recycle is reminding Canadians to safely recycle their batteries

Call2Recycle, North America's first and largest consumer battery stewardship and recycling program, encourages Canadians and Americans to Lead the Charge on National Battery Day (February 18th). The annual awareness day asks consumers and organizations to scour their homes and offices - especially junk drawers, closets and garages - for used batteries, which they can bring to a Call2Recycle drop-off location or start their own program.

Taking on E-waste

Andrew Rubin bought FCM Recycling in 2010, converting it from a ferrous and non-ferrous recycler with a speciality in printed circuit boards, to a specialized processor of electronic waste. With headquarters and a shredder in Lavaltrie, near Montreal, FCM also has plants in Cornwall, Ontario; Elmsdale, Nova Scotia; and Delta, British Columbia (near Vancouver).

The dangers of non-conforming batteries in the lead battery recycling process

Lead batteries continue to be a recycling success story in the United States, Canada and abroad. In fact, according to a National Recycling Rate Study commissioned by Battery Council International (BCI) in 2017, more than 99% of Lead batteries are recycled.  This is equivalent to about 12 billion pounds of lead batteries recycled in a four-year period.

Kuusakoski unveils recycling technology for separating copper and niobium-titanium from superconducting wires

Kuusakoski Recycling, Northern Europe's leading recycling services company, has developed a method of recycling magnetic imaging devices that can be used to separate electrolytic copper and niobium-titanium conductors, which are thinner than a human hair. The company says the innovation is particularly useful currently, because the use of magnetic imaging in health care is increasing, and hospitals are replacing their old devices with newer, more powerful imaging devices. Magnetic imaging requires an extremely strong magnetic field. For that reason, in the core of the imaging device there is a superconducting coil that is cooled with helium. This coil is sealed inside multi-layered metal chambers and cast in resin. 

free-magazine-subscription

Get Our Magazine

Paper or Digital delivered monthly to you

Subscribe or Renew Learn more