GAP and partner Descycle use tech to recycle electronic waste

In a UK first two British companies have partnered to recycle metals from the world’s fastest growing waste stream, electronic waste, using a new clean technology.

The first multi-million pound recycling plant is due to be live in the North East by 2024 and will have the capacity to recycle 5,000 tonnes per annum of printed circuit boards and other high value WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) at a fraction of the cost of conventional smelting operations.

E-waste generates £43bn of metal-rich waste annually and new technology being introduced as a result of the new partnership will remove the need for the highly wasteful and environmentally damaging conventional smelting processes.

Peter Moody, managing director of one of the firms involved, Gateshead-based recycling and waste management business GAP said: “We are constantly on the look out for new ways to innovate our processes and will continue to invest in the future to protect the environment whilst at the same time maintain our commercial advantage.

“I’m delighted that we can lead the way with Descycle disrupting the market, especially as the critical metals in e-waste circuit boards are notoriously difficult to recycle, requiring large smelting facilities. The prospect of being able to do this affordably onsite in the UK using a potentially zero carbon process is tremendously exciting and will be a globally significant disruption for the recycling industry.

“By identifying a new clean way to separate and extract the precious and critical metals from e-waste we are hoping to solve a problem that has been generating huge amounts of inefficiency and pollution for many years.”

The partnership between GAP Group (NE) Limited, a recycling and waste management business and Descycle, a clean technology company, will challenge the status quo in the energy and carbon intensive metal recycling industry by using a new environmentally friendly and efficient process based on a class of chemistry invented in the UK at the University of Leicester known as Deep Eutectic Solvents (DES).

Metals react differently in DES than in water-based systems, the unique properties in DES dissolve the target metals in solution without the need for toxic chemicals or high temperatures, allowing for simple metal recovery methods. The environmentally safe DES solution can itself be recycled and used over and over again.

Dr Leo Howden, Descycle managing director said: “We are really excited at the prospect of what can be achieved with our partnership with GAP. They have demonstrated that they really have the vision and the track record to provide an excellent platform to support Descycle in delivering this pioneering technology.

“Changing the whole dynamic of the e-waste market is a bold statement but one both GAP and Descycle can achieve with use of this revolutionary technology that has the potential to deliver the truly green solution governments have been calling for, creating a circular economy (where everything is reused for as long as possible) with clean technology.”

GAP and Descycle have signed Joint Venture heads of terms to deliver this novel process in the UK to recycle e-waste and critical metals required for low carbon technologies such as electric vehicle batteries.

Dr Rob Harris, Descycle chief technology officer said: “We founded Descycle when we saw the gigantic impact DES could have on the metals industry. DES is a platform chemistry which cannot only replace toxic chemicals, such as cyanide, but also by-pass the use of pollutive smelters. The process has the potential to be zero carbon and is requires far less financial investment. Attributes that will be game changing for the recycling industries.”

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