€2.1 million project to map out effective recovery of raw materials from electrical products

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WRAP is to partner with the KTN, Wuppertal Institute, ERP UK Ltd, and EARN for a new, EU LIFE funded project. The project, Critical Raw Material Closed Loop Recovery (‘CRM Recovery’), will explore commercial opportunities for harvesting critical raw materials and precious metals including gold, silver and platinum group metals, from everyday unwanted electronic products and will be the first-of-its-kind to link collection methods with recovery success, the organisers say.

These critical raw materials (CRMs) are crucial to many electrical products, and the increasing pressure on their supply is a growing economic concern for businesses and governments. However, WRAP research has shown that nearly 40% of electrical products go to landfill when they are disposed of. CRM Recovery aims to address these challenges by exploring viable alternative commercial streams that boost the economy, and sustainable solutions that reduce our reliance on the earth’s natural capital and the need for mining raw materials.

Over the course of the three and a half year project, CRM Recovery aims to increase the recovery of a range of CRMs by 5% from products such as consumer electronics, ICT equipment and small household appliances.

Waste

The project will link collection methods, such as kerbside collections, retailer take-back schemes or postal returns, to how the material components of these products can be efficiently dismantled, recovered and returned to the market.

This will present environmental benefits by keeping materials in the loop for longer, and by demonstrating the potential to economically recover these materials from Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Findings will be fed back to the European Commission in the form of policy recommendations and proposals for infrastructure development for the cost effective recovery of these precious and critical raw materials.

Four countries will participate – the UK, Germany, Italy and Turkey, with each country representing varying maturity stages of recovery development, allowing cross-comparison so that a European-wide framework can be developed.

WRAP chief executive Dr Liz Goodwin OBE said: “We’re delighted to lead this project which will find effective routes for collecting and recovering valuable materials from electrical and electronic products. I look forward to seeing how these new insights inform the bigger picture, demonstrating the economic and environmental benefits of making better use of resources across Europe.”

ERP UK and Ireland regional director Scott Butler added: “ERP UK is supporting the CRM Recovery project because we believe this vital area of research will benefit our producer members and help to achieve a circular economy. The environmental and economic gains from the project’s findings could have a profound effect on the electronics industry and the wider economy.”

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