No matter what previous processes there may have been in the recycling chain for electronic scrap, a substantial part of its output will most likely end up at our integrated metals smelter and refinery. Here, precious and other metals are recovered. The process output consists of pure, tradable metals of the same quality as those derived from mining operations. Located in Hoboken, near Antwerp, Umicore is the most modern, clean and integrated plant of this type, anywhere in the world.
Umicore's integrated metals smelter and refinery occupies a crucial position in the recycling of electronic scrap/WEEE. Our technical capabilities are a decisive factor in its further optimization.
Optimization of electronic scrap recycling
A true optimization process has to take the entire recycling chain into account, especially when considering the interdependencies between the main steps, as well as all the side streams generated that need to be included. In this context, more attention needs to be paid to the interfaces. Whatever is done in pre-processing, influences the performance of the subsequent end-processing steps and thus the results of the complete chain. Especially between our modern, integrated metals smelter and our dedicated ‘shredding & sorting’ plants, further improvement can be achieved by mutual optimization of both the sorting depth and the composition and destination of the various fractions produced. Examples with a specific optimization potential are mixed, metal contaminated plastic fractions and small electronic devices with a relatively high precious metals concentration (like mobile phones). There will be no general solution: instead we strive to find the best individual routes, depending on the type of WEEE, the type of companies involved and regional considerations. The requirements here are an open dialogue and co-operative approach between the relevant stakeholders, as well as transparent material flows, right up to the final destinations. The basis is a professional, environmentally compliant business practice. For material streams generated in OECD-countries, sustainable solutions must be found mainly within the OECD-context instead of externalizing the problems by exporting WEEE to countries with environmentally non-compliant backyard refining operations.
Umicore actively participates in workgroups and research projects to analyse the material flow of electronic scrap. Thereafter, we develop our guidelines to suit both the best recycling practices and innovative technologies. We have already supported several related university projects by providing plant and material data as well as our recycling expertise.
Electronic scrap is one of our facility's major input streams, giving Umicore a global leading position in recycling. We do not utilise only the numerous metals that we recover: plastics and other organic substances that are an integral part of the scrap are 'rescued' as well.
All processes are equipped with highly efficient off-gas and waste water cleaning systems that guarantee compliance with strict environmental standards. Supplementing these unique technical capabilities, Umicore Precious Metals Refining offers a wide portfolio of services. We can rely on a global network of Umicore sales offices and partners in our recycling network. The emphasis is on transparency towards authorities and customers, as well as professional business practices based on strict ethical standards.
We recover (precious) metals and energy from electronic scrap in a highly efficient and environmentally safe way.