“We have formed a joint venture with a Swiss company who used to concentrate e-waste for another company down the recycling chain,” said Extracthive’s executive director Christophe Dondeyne. He added that Extracthive has found a new hydrometallurgical process for them “so they can extract some rare metals that are currently not recycled by their customers.”
“Our pilot-scale project already generated a return on investment, so they are willing to industrialize the process,” said Mr. Dondeyne. “In the end, they’ll keep selling the concentrate but will make additional profits by selling the extracted rare metal,” added Mr. Dondeyne.
“Nowadays, most e-waste recycling companies just crush discarded consumer electronics to pieces and burn the organic material, assuming it will be easier to apply chemistry and concentrate the metals out of that pre-treatment”, said Mr. Dondeyne, adding that “but with its Liam smartphone recycling robot, Apple is sending a strong message to the industry.”
“In fact, in the long term, such solutions could allow Apple and other large OEMs to keep a tab on their metal resources, remaining the full owner of the metal content of the devices they produce rather than having to pay for more”, noted Mr. Dondeyne.
“You could imagine some companies leasing the precious metals to consumers rather than selling it” completed Ricoux, “in the future, consumers may pay less for their smartphones and tablets at the condition that they take them back to the shop at the devices’ end of life. This is already starting to happen and it may be the future trend,” added Mr. Dondeyne.
Original equipment manufacturers could see enough benefits in recovering themselves the raw materials they processed to no longer be held responsible for e-waste.
Extracthive is hosted within the Institut de Chimie Séparative de Marcoule research centre and has a 100m2 testing hall within the fences of the CEA centre of Marcoule.
Extracthive will also have access to the testing platform of the European Hydrometallurgical Institute from mid-2017 onwards. The European Hydrometallurgical Institute is a 2000m2 facility with two separate piloting halls as well as dedicated analytic labs.