TSR has an ambitious plan: to close an ever larger number of material life cycles in order to preserve as many natural raw materials as possible. There are two ways of achieving the latter. On the one hand, existing recycling processes can be improved. On the other, efforts can be made to develop recycling solutions for specific metals which are currently unable to be recycled because it is not technically or economically practicable to do so. These may be materials, such as aluminium, that are contaminated with other materials or that have been combined with other metals. Ambitious as we are, we are determined to do both. It is not surprising, therefore, that we are involved in many different research projects. The most important ones have been summarised below. The latest in separation technology so to speak.
We carry out research work with a whole variety of experts – from the waste management industry to universities
If you want to support others, then it is important that you focus on optimising your own business operations. With this in mind, we believe it is essential that work is carried out on continuously improving TSR’s in-house activities to ensure as many metals as possible can be recovered and reused. Just one example here is our REMINE project, for which grants have already been approved. This project involves a new facility that is able to process TSR’s own shredder residue. This in itself is an important and worthy cause as it focuses on the treatment of a specific type of metal waste which is unable to be effectively processed at the moment: on mixed fractions containing very small pieces of material. Our goal here is to deploy state-of-the-art separation technology to recover the different types of metal and plastics.
Phoenix Mining is a wholly owned subsidiary of TSR Recycling. This company’s goal is to recover valuable non-ferrous metals from waste that is particularly difficult to process – waste such as incinerator bottom ash (IBA). Up to 18% of the contents of IBA are non-ferrous metals (e.g. copper, zinc and precious metals) which are ideal for smelting businesses. Phoenix Mining not only plays an important role in conserving our planet’s raw materials, it is also meeting the growing demand for such services brought about by changes to the law. The latest regulations now make it obligatory for waste incineration plants (WIP) to ensure their IBA is processed more effectively. The volume of non-ferrous metals recovered from IBA each year currently lies at 85,000 tonnes and this figure is expected to rise to more than 130,000 tonnes over the next few years.
Looking at the increased use of lightweight parts and composite materials in cars, how many metals can really be recovered? The end of life vehicle (ELV) research project was given the task of answering this question – a project commissioned by the German Environment Agency and managed by the Institute for Environmental Strategies, Ökopol. Our shredder facility in Brandenburg played an important role here. A total of 214 end of life vehicles were shredded at our plant so that a detailed analysis could be made of the composition of the output fraction. We analysed the metal content of the output in great detail – including rare earths and specialty metals. These findings highlighted a number of interesting facts, such as which materials are being lost and where improvements could be made. If solutions are to be found to these problems, however, then the recycling sector and the automobile industry need to work together. Why? Because recycling can only really work well if product developers think about how metals can be recovered when they are actually designing their new products.
At the moment, considerable volumes of potentially recoverable metals are slipping through the net. The reason for this is clear: products are being sent for recycling but the recycling companies do not know what their exact contents are. We have started our own project to solve this problem. Working together with scientists, we have developed a real time system that enables us to track down specific metals – even the smallest amounts. This involves genuine detective work based on sensor-based particle characterisation, mathematical derivatives and empirically observed material stream properties. It sounds complicated. And it is complicated. Which is why we have brought in the experts to help us out here: the IME Process Metallurgy and Metal Recycling Institute at RWTH Aachen University.