🇪🇺🇨🇳 China and EU signed ‘historic’ memorandum about the circular economy

At the 20th EU-China Summit in Bejing this week recycling was one of the core topics. Co-operation by the two major world economies is said to cover sustainable strategies, legislation, policies and research. More specifically, it will focus on management systems and policy tools including eco-design, eco-labelling, extended producer responsibility and green supply chains as well as financing of the circular economy. Both sides have pledged that they will support a ‘strategic exchange’ on best practices in key fields such as industrial parks, chemicals, plastics and waste.

This confirms the road China is heading towards sustainability. In January 2017, Xi Jinping announced to spend 252 billion Yuan (US$ 37 billion) from 2017 to 2020 for improving the waste situation in his country.

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🌍 Global Distribution of Critical Minerals – Slideshow

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) published in 2017 the report “Critical mineral resources of the United States—Economic and environmental geology and prospects for future supply” edited by Klaus J. Schulz , John H. DeYoung Jr. , Robert R. Seal II , and Dwight C. Bradley.

This comprehensive book presents resource and geologic information on the following 23 mineral commodities currently among those viewed as important to the national economy and national security of the United States: antimony (Sb), barite (barium, Ba), beryllium (Be), cobalt (Co), fluorite or fluorspar (fluorine, F), gallium (Ga), germanium (Ge), graphite (carbon, C), hafnium (Hf), indium (In), lithium (Li), manganese (Mn), niobium (Nb), platinum-group elements (PGE), rare-earth elements (REE), rhenium (Re), selenium (Se), tantalum (Ta), tellurium (Te), tin (Sn), titanium (Ti), vanadium (V), and zirconium (Zr).

Their research provides an enlightening overview of the occurrence of these critical minerals throughout the world and helps in understanding the geostrategic importance of some of them.

Link to website with extensive reports on all 23 minerals

 

The very recommendable North American online publisher visualcapitalist.com put it nicely in an insightful infographic.

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critical-minerals-usa

🇩🇪 Advancements in recycling of carbon fibre reinforced polymers

Source: Umweltcluster Bayern

Augsburg - Umweltcluster-Carbon

The cross-cluster project of the Bavarian Environmental Cluster (UCB) and the top level cluster MAI Carbon of the Carbon Composites e.V. (CCeV) has now announced results. The speakers gave insights on recycling and disposal.

Aircraft, automobile or bicycle – the industries are versatile when it is to be light and stable and carbon fibre reinforced polymers (CFRP) are used. The composite material has an enormous potential for lightweight construction, which is to be used more and more frequently in the future. It is therefore very important to devote a great deal of attention to the question at the end of the life cycle of CFRP. Therefore, CFRP-containing waste streams will increase significantly in the future and new challenges for the recycling industry will arise. Unused recycling potentials and alternative disposal possibilities are central issues for both manufacturers and waste disposal companies.

The MAI UCB project, which was launched in October 2016, between the Bavarian Environmental Cluster (UCB) and the top level cluster MAI Carbon was devoted to issues related to the disposal and recycling of carbon fibre-containing waste. The aim of the project was to identify and elucidate intelligent and sustainable solutions for the recycling and disposal of carbon fibre-containing residues. It was about the development of a sustainable basis, which initiated processes over the duration of the project, which further develops the utilisation of CFRP and anchors it in Bavaria.

Apart from the established pyrolysis numerous new fibre-matrix separation processes are currently being tested. Solvolysis, supercritical water, induction heating and electromagnetic commutation are still in their infancy. If the fibre is successfully separated from the matrix, there are new paths for further processing. Fibres which are preserved in long pieces are processed into tapes, yarns or nonwovens. Short fibres and dusts can be processed by injection moulding. The goal is to use the fibres again and again. Even the shortest fibres can significantly increase the mechanical properties of injection moulding compounds.

CFRP can neither be deposited due to the carbon content nor burned in conventional waste incineration plants because of the stability of the fibre. Tobias Walter presented a solution from AlzChem GmbH at the one-day event at the Technology Center Augsburg (TCA). They tested successfully CFRP waste from raw material for the production of calcium carbide.

Furthermore, the results of the Georgsmarienhütte GmbH were presented, which successfully tested CFRP waste as a primary carbon substitute in steel production. Likewise, the special waste incinerator Indaver also carries out a thermal utilisation of CFRP with great success.

The contributions of the new methods for utilisation of CFRP were accompanied by scientific contributions from RWTH Aachen University and TU Dresden. Mrs. Maria Reiter from Fraunhofer IGCV presented the challenges in the life cycle assessment of CFRP recycling methods. Here, too, it became clear, depending on how and where the material is used, that it can be ecologically sustainable.

In summary, it should be noted that CFRP is a material in development. The current opinion that CFRP is not sustainable is obsolete. The technologies for a sustainable use of CFRP are already in place and are certainly in use. New applications of recycled materials are found almost daily. Decisive will still be the price. The trend continues to show downwards. The theme day “Utilisation of CFRP-containing waste” showed that there are quite marketable business models for disposal and recycling, which, however, must be expanded even more intensively for the mass market.

“For the further success of this material, it will be important that we develop value-adding prerequisites,” Prof. Dr. Volker Warzelhan, Member of the Board of the Carbon Composites e.V.

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🇬🇧 Bioplastic made from waste polyethylene

Researchers at the University of Wolverhampton have turned waste plastic into biodegradable resins for medical and consumer products. Post-consumer polyethylene was converted into a pliable wax substance for use in plastic-alloys, turning it into a high-value bioplastic.

Dr. Iza Radecka, Reader in Biotechnology at Wolverhampton’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, and her colleague Professor Marek Kowalczuk are further testing the plastics. Possible uses includ mulch for farming, a ‘scaffolding’ on which to grow human cells and for items such as pens or bags.

Radecka said: “Mountains of plastic waste, including carrier bags, packaging and medical plastic wastes are buried in landfill sites around the world each year. Unfortunately, plastics produced by the petrochemical industry are not biodegradable and therefore accumulate in the environment at a rate of more than 25 million tonnes per year. This continues to pose a growing challenge for authorities at both the local and national level.”

“Waste Polyethylene (PE) is a potential carbon source that could be utilised to make value-added biopolymers, particularly as it is the most commonly produced plastic, making up over 29 per cent of worldwide plastic manufacture, while only 10 per cent of it is recycled.”

“Bacterial polymers such as Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are a group of biocompatible, environmentally neutral, biodegradable plastics that can be produced by certain bacteria. The structure of the PHAs can be adapted for a wide range of medi­cal applications, especially implants, including heart valve tissue engineering, vascular tissue engineering, bone and cartilage tissue engineering, as well as nerve conduit tissue engineering.”

The University has joined the Centre of Polymer Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences in Poland; the Fraunhofer UMSICHT in Germany; the University of Bologna, Italy; the Department of Chemical Organic Technology and Petrochemistry at the Silesian University of Technology, Poland, and Recycling Technologies, in Swindon.

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🇩🇪 Digital platform that connects machines to improve production processes has been launched

Machinery and technology provider ThyssenKrupp has launched a digital platform that connects machines to each other in order to improve production processes, including for recycling.

‘Thanks to Toii, all machines can communicate with each other,’ says the company. ‘Due to predictive maintenance, the platform is also supposed to forecast the necessity of machine services in the future.’

The name Toii is a double play on words: it spells IIoT backwards, the abbreviation for Industrial Internet of Things; and it is pronounced like the word ‘toy’ – ‘an indication of how the new platform makes linking heterogeneous machines to existing IT structures child’s play’.

‘Toii will be a milestone for our recycling machinery,’ the company’s Michael Ridder insists to Recycling International. ‘Within ThyssenKrupp, Toii also connects the machinery of our ThyssenKrupp MillServices & Systems company which is responsible for the slag management of our steel mills.’

More than ever, it is essential to find intelligent uses for slag products for which there is a strong market demand, Ridder believes. ‘Instead of dumping slag in landfill sites, we process it and produce high-quality products.’ These are used in, for example, road construction, landscaping, hydraulic engineering, as fertiliser for the agricultural sector, and in the cement industry.

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🇦🇺 Neometals reveals lithium battery recycling breakthrough

Australia: Up to 99.2% of cobalt can be ‘economically recovered’ from spent lithium batteries thanks to a new technology developed by Australian firm Neometals. The construction of a pilot-scale hydrometallurgical plant at its laboratory in Montreal, Canada, is now underway.

Neometals reports that it has filed three US provisional patent applications associated with its innovative technology. The company is confident the 100 kilograms per day pilot plant in Canada will accelerate the commercialisation of the battery recycling solution.

A sum of US$ 4.5 million will be invested in the modern-day facility, which will be in operation for at least 10 years, during which time plant revenue will total US$ 233 million. The average net operation cost is said to be US$ 4.45 per pound of cobalt (US$ 9 852 per tonne), with the payback period being less than one year.

The pilot programme is scheduled to be completed in the September quarter and test recoveries of cobalt, lithium, nickel and copper from nickel-manganese-cobalt cathode lithium batteries typically used in electric vehicles.

‘We will continue our disciplined evaluation of the technology through piloting before undertaking an engineering cost study to satisfy the industry demand for a commercial, environmentally and ethically responsible, end‐of‐life solution for lithium batteries,’ comments Chris Reed, managing director of Neometals.

For more information, please visit: www.neometals.com.au

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