Materials

GAP Group partner with Descycle to establish WEEE recycling facility


PhonesBritish waste management business GAP Group and technology firm Descycle have partnered together to build a plant that will recycle Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) using a “novel clean technology”. The plant will be able to recycle 5,000 tonnes of printed circuit boards as well as high value WEEE per year.

Together, the two companies contradict the status quo of the energy and carbon intensive metal recycling industry. Using an environmentally friendly and efficient process, based on a class of chemistry known as ‘Deep Eutectic Solvents’ (DES), they will remove the demand for the conventional yet wasteful and damaging smelting process.

This alternative process is less expensive than current, “billion dollar” smelting operations. It will also assist with reducing the £43Bn worth of metal rich waste generated annually.

Peter Moody, GAP’s managing director has said: “We are constantly on the lookout for new ways to innovate our processes and will continue to invest in the future to protect the environment whilst at the same time maintain our commercial advantage.

“The prospect of being able to do this affordably onsite in the UK using a potentially zero carbon process is tremendously exciting and will be a globally significant disruption for the recycling industry.

“By identifying a new clean way to separate and extract the precious and critical metals from e-waste we are hoping to solve a problem that has been generating huge amounts of inefficiency and pollution for many years.”

Currently, the UK is the world’s second highest generator of e-waste, throwing away 23.9kg per capita, and this new technology will help to recycle e-waste domestically.

Compared to water-based systems, deep eutectic solvents (DES) create a different reaction in metals. Not only are the target metals dissolved without toxic chemicals or high temperatures, allowing for simple metal recovery methods, but DES is itself environmentally safe. The solution can be recycled and used over again.

Dr Rob Harris, Descycle chief technology officer commented: “We founded Descycle when we saw the gigantic impact DES could have on the metals industry. DES is a platform chemistry which cannot only replace toxic chemicals, such as cyanide, but also by-pass the use of pollutive smelters, which will translate to metals with a far smaller carbon footprint. The process has the potential to be zero carbon and requires far less financial investment. Attributes that will be game changing for the recycling industries.”

Dr Leo Howden, Descycle managing director added: “Changing the whole dynamic of the e-waste market is a bold statement but one both GAP and Descycle can achieve with use of this revolutionary technology that has the potential to deliver the truly green solution governments have been calling for, creating a circular economy (where everything is reused for as long as possible) with clean technology.”