Over 40 million tons of electronic waste are generated worldwide every year. In order to cope with today's increasingly complex and demanding electronic waste, UrbanGold, together with its partners SMS group and Mettop, has developed an innovative process for recovering valuable metals from this waste stream.
The parts collected here represent a valuable source of various metals. Professional recycling offers not only ecological advantages but economic incentives, too. The specially developed technological systems are designed for maximum flexibility and robustness, so that not only high-quality materials but also low-value and high-calorific materials, which up to now had no utilization potential, can be profitably used and processed.
Each case requires a tailor-made system for the best economic and ecological solution, because the available e-waste sources and compositions vary greatly. In recent years, four main systems have been offered: UrbanGold Flex, UrbanGold Compact, UrbanGold Integrated, and UrbanGold Hub.
The central component of the “UrbanGold Flex” process is the HENRI technology. HENRI is based on a specially modified and highly efficient bath smelting furnace, whose operation has been continuously optimized and further developed in pyro-metallurgical tests, from laboratory scale up to a pilot plant, in order to provide a basis for expansion capability up to an annual output of up to 100,000 tons of e-scrap concentrate.
The offspring of this development was the “UrbanGold Compact” process, which essentially represents the transfer of the HENRI technology into an optimized TBRC melting furnace. The first reference plant for this process on an industrial scale will go into operation early 2020.
In some cases, the infrastructure and equipment in an existing copper plant can be utilized. Depending on the customer’s requirements, e-scrap processing and smelting units and other metal refining units can be flexibly integrated into the existing plant concept. This cost-efficient full-line concept is marketed under the brand name “UrbanGold Integrated”.
A more decentralized and very effective concept for smaller e-scrap processing customers is the “UrbanGold Hub” concept. Here, e-waste is collected locally in decentralized hubs, which consist of a small smelting unit that converts the collected e-waste into a precious metal containing raw copper. This raw copper is then shipped to a central refinery, where all the main metals are recovered. Either a HENRI or a TBRC can be employed as the main smelting unit of these hubs.
Since the recovery of valuable metals in the recycling of e-waste is of high ecological and economic importance, all UrbanGold processes are designed primarily to minimize the loss rate of these important metals. The technologies developed under this premise that are able to recover and convert 98% of the targeted metals to pure metal products, combined with a highly effective residual heat utilization, create compelling business cases and result in payback periods of under two years.
The first industrial “UrbanGold Compact” plant will be established near Moscow and process about 6,000 tons of printed circuit boards per year to LME grade metals, such as copper, nickel, gold, silver, and platinum. The SMS group package comprises the supply of all components, i.e. facility for mechanical preparation of the raw materials, TBRC converter (top blown rotary converter), refining furnace, casting wheel, electrolysis, gas cleaning, and automation systems. SMS group has supplied all the engineering and is supervising the ongoing erection and commissioning of the plant. In providing professional training to the customer's staff, SMS group will hand over the commissioned plant to a well-trained customer.