New industrial process

The amount of WEEE (Waste of electric and electronic equipment) thrown away is increasing by around 20% each year, making it the fastest growing waste stream in Europe. Today, still more than 80% of these WEEE end up in landfills, in rich and developing countries alike, where the lead and other toxins it contains can cause soil and water contamination. Yet, there are valuable constituents in e-wastes and the recovery of these materials could alleviate mining of virgin materials at less than a tenth of the environmental footprint originally needed to extract them as primary sources!
Resources rarefaction, environmental impacts, geopolitics, increasing consumption of electronics, and more and more efficient organizations for collecting waste streams create additional incentives for managing the end-of-life electronic products as key resources, thus moving into the spotlight the need for affordable, efficient and environmental friendly process for metals recovery from e-wastes.
In the past years, high performance capabilities have been built based on hydro- or pyro-metallurgy processes which can recover more than 20 precious and other non-ferrous metals from a wide range of input materials. However, with their costs of several hundreds of millions Euros, their high energetic processes and their limited capability to deal with Printed Circuit Boards Assemblies (PCBAs cannot count for more than 15% of the in-wastes streams), they cannot be seen as sustainable and competitive solutions to deal with the (2 million tons of e-wastes) 500 000 tons of PCBAs still lost for Europe every year1. Indeed, their processing solution and cost make them very selective to high grade materials leaving aside lower grade ones.
The Start-Up BIGARREN BIZI was set up with the ambition to bridge the gap between these high-end but very selective e-wastes recovering solutions and those more widespread recycling processes which can extract base materials because in large quantity in e-wastes while simultaneously jeopardizing any opportunity to recover the more precious but less concentrated metals.
The NIREA recycling solution is a low-cost, environmental friendly and highly flexible process aimed at retrieving the maximum value from medium or low graded End-of-Life Printed Circuit Boards batches while offering the best possible compromise from an overall life-cycle point of view. It does not make any use of chemical reagent or thermal techniques but rely on the implementation of a smart and innovative mechanical separation process which takes place after the e-wastes are grinded into powders at the micron range. An on-line characterisation measurement allows to adapt the separation process strategy as a function of each batch materials’ constitution.
With a targeted investment cost of 2M€ for a 10 tons-a- day plant capacity, the BIGARREN BIZI process represents a very cost effective solution to be replicated at a macro regional level, nearby waste collecting facilities, for an even more positive overall life-cycle optimisation.