Efficient WEEE recycling: the BlueMetal process
Dr Rolf Degel
Vice President, Non-Ferrous Metals and SAF
Project Manager Order Handling/Sales
Today, more than 45 million tons of waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) are generated worldwide with the tendency to increase over the next years. With its valuable metal and especially precious metal content, it is no surprise that this 'waste stream' is a valuable raw material source. So professional recycling is not only an ecological advantage, but offers economic incentives. SMS group offers various tailor-made solutions from pre-treatment over the smelting and refining up to final high-grade products for an efficient recovery of these valuable metals. This holistic recycling approach, where up to 98 percent of these metals can be completely recovered and converted to pure high-grade metal products trades under the name 'BlueMetal process'. The key component of the recycling plant is the BlueSmelter, which is based on bath smelting technology. Through an innovative gas injection combined with an intelligent process design, the BlueSmelter permits the smelting and recycling even of low-grade materials with high organic shares. This advanced bath smelting technology is in comparison to existing bath smelters more flexible in terms of acceptable feed mix and operability and is financially attractive due to its compact design. Due to the potential low-grade of the materials to be smelted, gas treatment becomes a very important aspect for such a plant. Advanced gas cleaning solutions make sure the exhaust air will not contain any environmentally harmful substances such as mercury, bromine, fluorine or chlorine. The product of the BlueSmelter is a valuable metals rich so-called 'black-copper' which either can be sold to the market or further treated in the BlueMetals plant. The BlueMetal's plant refines the black copper to raw copper in a first step generating a lead and tin rich slag. The raw copper is subsequently either casted, granulated or atomized depending on the following process route. No matter which route is chosen, the final products are always high-grade metals that are sold to the market. Currently SMS installs a WEEE recycling plant applying a TBRC as a primary smelter near Moscow, which will process about 6,000 tons of printed circuit boards a year to LME/LBMA grade metals, such as copper, nickel, gold, silver and platinum.