At metal price levels, as of August 2008: net value = recovered metals value minus smelting and refining charges, but without consideration of collection, preprocessing, and shipment costs in the preceding recycling chain. Value can vary significantly depending on specific quality/type (especially for autocatalysts). At the end 2008, price levels net values decreased substantially.
generate attractive additional revenue. This "by-product recovery" is comparable to investments in by-product recovery for primary materials.
It is evident that the awareness to recycle consumer goods is of the utmost importance. Legislation, public campaigns (e.g., from authorities, NGOs, manufacturers), and an appropriate infrastructure for handing in old products are important prerequisites. Europe (in particular, the Scandinavian, Benelux, and the German-speaking countries) has progressed quite far in developing a general "recycling mentality." Although many people are used to trading or returning old goods to collection points for reuse, some items (e.g., mobile phones or "high price" electronics as computers) require incentives to bring them out of "hibernation" or obsolescence. A consumer survey indicated only 3% of people return old mobile phones for reuse or recycling, whereas 44% store them at home (Nokia 2008). The amount of EoL products continues to increase and is influenced, for example, by consumer behavior related to product lifetime and general consumption of materials. Product lifetime is determined by durability as well as functional, technical, and aesthetical obsolescence; these are, in turn, determined by the product design and social factors, such as current fashion and lifestyle (Walker 2006; Van Nes and Cramer 2006). It appears that for some first-time owners, the lifetime of a product becomes increasingly shorter; in particular for fashion- and technology-sensitive items like mobile phones, computers, and iPods.
Most people look for a proper solution when they are ready to discard their products. Nevertheless, a lot of goods handed in for recycling or reuse do not enter the appropriate channels. This is not due to lack of awareness or legislation, but rather to weaknesses in control and enforcement, as well as in structural deficits.
Legislation has only a limited impact on recycling technologies. For example, mandatory removal of certain parts from EoL devices (catalysts, circuit boards, batteries) can support recycling, if the goal is to get the desired metals into a defined treatment process (result driven), and the actual removal procedure is not restricted (descriptive). In addition, classif cation of WEEE into certain qualities for collection (sorting) is important so that optimized streams for further downstream processing can be obtained. The obligation to meet weight-based recycling rates15 should also be critically evaluated, as it promotes the recycling of the main product constituents, which are not necessarily the
15 The calculation of static as well as dynamic recycling rates for metals and products is not straightforward. For an extensive discussion, see Reuter et al. (2005) and GFMS (2005).
most important from an economic (as well as an environmental) perspective. Technology metals with low concentrations are not taken into account. Finally, defining technical and environmental treatment standards is important for the recycling industry, because standards help create a level playing field and promote innovation. Control and enforcement is crucial, especially with respect to recycling plants outside Europe. The EU does not object to recycling European scrap in a non-European country as long as the environmental standards of the European legislation are met. In practice, this is often not the case.
At mid-2008 prices, products such as mobile phones, computers, and cars have a positive net value if handled in professional recycling chains. Other products (e.g., a CRT-TV or monitor, most audio/video equipment, and small household appliances) still have a negative net value. Legislation can, and does, provide ways to finance the recycling costs of these "negative goods." Thus far, this has not been the case for minor metals contained in such products, and legislation has not been supportive. Waiting for the market to regulate itself by further increasing special metal prices, which one day would generate enough recycling incentives, cannot be an acceptable approach. Due to the delayed reaction time of the metal price, too many secondary minor metal resources will inevitably be lost. From a national economy's point of view, consideration should be given to providing more legislative support, especially for special metals recycling (e.g., for recycling of goods with a negative net value).
Structural Factors: The Product Life Cycle
In view of the discussion on economic, legislative, and technical factors, one could expect that car catalysts, mobile phones, computers, and cars are products that (at least in Europe) achieve a very high recycling rate because: (a) efficient technologies and sufficient capacities to recycle these goods in an environmentally compliant way exist; (b) legislation, consumer awareness, and a collection/recycling infrastructure are widely in place; and (c) economic incentives for recycling are attractive. In actuality, however, recycling rates for these products are well below 50%. The most prominent example is the valuable car catalyst. On a global level, only about 50% of PGMs are finally recovered. In Europe, this level is even below 40%, partially due to the large volume of EoL vehicle exports. This occurs although (a) it is easy to identify and remove the catalyst from a scrap car at the dismantler, which is required by the EoL vehicle directive; (b) a more than sufficient number of catalyst collectors is aggressively chasing autocatalysts at dismantlers, scrap yards, and workshops, paying high prices per piece; and (c) appropriate smelting and refining technologies are able to recover more than 95% of the PGMs contained in a catalyst. Thus, something must go essentially wrong with the additional factors that contribute to the life cycle.
As of 2001, a research project investigating the structural factors that play a role in the life cycle of PGMs was conducted by Umicore and Öko-Institut (Germany)16 (Hagelüken et al. 2005; 2009). Structural factors investigated in more detail were product lifetime, sequence of product ownership, sequence of locality of use, system boundaries/global flows, and structure of the recycling chain. Two distinctly different life cycle structures were identified: "closed cycles" and "open cycles," commonly referred to as direct (closed) and indirect (open loop) systems. The structural factors identified for PGMs can obviously be extended to industrial and consumer products in general.
Closed Cycles: Recycling from Industrial Processes
Closed loops prevail in industrial processes where metals are used to enable the manufacture of other goods or intermediates. Examples are PGM process catalysts (e.g., oil refining catalysts) or PGM equipment used in the glass industry. For PGMs, the manufactured goods do not typically contain PGMs themselves. Instead, the metals are part of an industrial product which is owned by and located at the industrial facility, and thus has a high economic value which facilitates recycling. Changes in ownership or location are well documented and keep material fl ows transparent. All stakeholders in the life cycle work closely together in a professional manner. As a result, closed loop systems are inherently efficient, and more than 90% of the PGMs used in industrial processes are typically recovered.
A long product lifetime does not negatively affect the achieved recovery rate. Oil refining PGM catalysts, which can have a lifetime of over ten years, are still recycled. Thus the attractive intrinsic value (of PGMs) combined with the frame conditions of an industrial cycle is the driver for success. Recycling of industrial products without precious metals, such as sputtering targets or production scrap in general, can be less economically attractive, but the other fundamental frame conditions remain similar. Old industrial infrastructure and machinery offer a significant future recycling potential for steel, copper, and many other metals. Whereas massive infrastructure is difficult to relocate, and
16 The focus and system limits were the F.R. Germany. Global conditions for the materials flow of PGM were, however, adequately considered in the study. Areas of investigation include all relevant application segments for PGMs: automotive catalysts, chemical and oil refining catalysts, glass manufacturing, dental applications, electronics, jewellery, electroplating, and fuel cells.
thus is a good target for "urban mining," it has been reported that second-hand machinery is also increasingly leaving Europe (Janischewski et al. 2003).
Open Cycles: Recycling from Consumer Durables
Open loop systems are prevalent in the recycling of EoL consumer products (e.g., EoL vehicle and WEEE). Their complex structure and lack of supportive frame conditions evokes inefficient/failing metal recovery. Since recycling rates for valuable PGM-containing catalysts are below 50%, it can be assumed that for most technology metals this situation is even worse. Many participants in the life cycle are not aware of the (economic) metal value in EoL consumer goods. Although the concentration (and thus value) per product is low, the huge product amounts represent a significant material resource and economic value in total.
Consumer products often change ownership during their life cycle, and with each change the connection between the manufacturer and owner becomes weaker. This is compounded by the fact that change of owner often means change of location and highly mobile consumer goods spread all over the globe. Trading of old equipment and donations to charities have led to steady but nontransparent flows of material to Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia (Buchert et al. 2007).17 A clear distinction between an EoL product for recycling and reuse is dependent on location (i.e., waste in Europe equals reuse in Africa). Traders take advantage of this by exporting for reuse, although a fair amount of these exports evade Basel Convention waste export procedures. Thus, old products collected in good faith for recycling or reuse can dubiously escape, only to resurface in primitive landfills or disastrous backyard "recycling" operations in developing countries.
In practice, the probability of effective recycling at final EoL in developing and transition countries is rather low, as appropriate recycling infrastructure is not in place, or only some valuable (precious) metals are recovered at very low efficiency (Rochat et al. 2007). The insufficient cooperation along the life cycle and recycling chain (although "extended producer responsibility" has
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