With increasing electrification and technological development, more and more metals are included into daily products that must be recycled when it reaches its EoL to close the loop of a circular economy. However, with increased product complexity, also the recycling and separation process of each individual metal/element dramatically increases. In order to recycle as many metals as possible, adapted processes and new metallurgical solutions must be developed.
UrbanGold and its partners from Mettop and SMS group have developed a novel technology for the recovery of valuables from all non-ferrous metals’ fractions of WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), with a special focus on low qualities, which are commonly landfilled or incinerated. The technology is marketed under the brand name “UrbanGold Flex” to illustrate the high flexibility in respect of plant design and raw material portfolio, allowing also the processing of low-grade material and materials with high caloric values.
The process of the technology’s centrepiece, a modified and enhanced bath smelting furnace called “HENRI”, was investigated in numerous pyrometallurgical trials as basis for a scale-up towards a capacity of up to 100,000 tons of WEEE-concentrates per year. All relevant facility components have been evaluated in respect of references, fall-back options, as well as exit strategies (alternatives) to minimize risks when establishing a novel technology.
A spin-off within the development is the “UrbanGold Compact” technology which can be seen as optimization of state-of-the-art smelters by using an optimized TBRC as primary processing unit. As an UrbanGold Compact plant will be the first industrial scale reference of UrbanGold’s technologies, it is also explained in the publication.
A further option is the Mini Henri which allows to recycle 3000 tpa of WEEE concentrate at minimum CAPEX expenses.
As precious metals recovery is of major (economical) importance when recycling WEEE, major attention has been given to minimize the losses of these valuables. These measures, as well as a sophisticated way of utilizing waste heat as far as possible, result in interesting business cases with gross profits of up to 20% or even more.