Recovery of raw materials such as lithium and gold by recycling electrical and electronic devices

The RECRITIC Project aims to find the best recycling methods for recovering metals from mobile phone batteries and discarded motherboards, and to use these materials for new technological applications.

Plastic found in these devices will also be recycled to obtain recycled plastic that can be used in many industries.

Recycling complex waste such as lithium batteries and motherboards is problematic and particularly complex when the elements this waste consists of include critical raw materials that are scarce and non-renewable. This can be a major limitation in terms of economic and social development. A potential solution that could solve the problem of the increased scarcity of these materials in the future is the development of technologically advances that significantly improve their recyclability.

The RECRITIC Project is being developed by Aimplas, the Plastics Technology Centre; with the support of ACTECO and the GBP Metal Group. This research project, funded by the Valencian Institute for Competitiveness and Innovation (IVACE+i), highlights the importance of recovering and recycling the critical raw materials (CRM) identified by the European Commission for their economic importance, scarcity and strategic relevance, given that these materials are essential to produce technological products and applications.

Eva Verdejo, lead researcher of the Chemical Recycling Group at Aimplas, said, “Critical raw materials such as lithium, gold and silicon, as well as other valuable types of waste, can be found in everyday electrical devices like mobile phones and computers. But they also play a key role in building infrastructure for alternative energy sources such as wind, solar photovoltaic and solar thermoelectric energy. Therefore, these materials are also critically important in the transition to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources, which is why it’s so important to foster research on feasible, sustainable recycling that makes it possible to treat complex waste adequately to obtain recycled plastic that can be reused.”

Eva Verdejo went on to explain that the progress made in the RECRITIC Project would “allow us to move towards complete recycling and zero landfill, a transformation aligned with European, national and autonomous community legislation in terms of complying with the circular economy model, waste management and plastic strategy, among others.”

To achieve this ambitious aim, the project will work on developing and identifying different processes and technologies for mechanical, chemical and biological recycling. Besides collaborating with the recycling companies involved, the RECRITIC Project will also work with the Design Engineering Group at the Universitat Jaume I (UJI) to assess the environmental impact of CRM chemical and biological recovery processes. Ingeniería Analítica SL will perform substance analysis, especially using chromatographic methods. The Central Service for Experimental Research (SCSIE) at the Universitat de València will collaborate by carrying out complementary analysis.

This project is receiving funding from the IVACE grant programme aimed at technological centres in the Valencian Community for non-economic R&D projects carried out in collaboration with companies in 2023 financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of the European Union within the framework of the Operational Programme 2021-2027.


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