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Project name:

Data-driven system to recover critical materials in electric and electronic equipments

Status: Idea
Creation date: 24-11-2021

Project objectives:

Summary

An innovative Italian SME, focused on environmental sustainability solutions, has developed a data-driven system providing an original approach to improve material recycling, reducing extraction of primary resources and leading to circular economy and environmental sustainability of the electronics industry. Research agreements, joint venture and technical cooperation agreements are sought.

Description

The proposed system, developed by an innovative SME specialised in the waste management sector and based in the north-west of Italy, allows starting a process of decoupling between the production of wealth and the use of natural resources available in limited quantities. The web platform does not pose geographical limitations and it can operate wherever needed. Currently, applications are on in Italy – where the company cooperate in the development of an assisted manual dismantling process of washing machines, featuring an electronic waste recycling facility - Slovenia (Ljubljana) and France (Paris) – where the SME took part respectively to the first and the second edition of a programme funding incubation and
internationalization of Italian start-ups.

Improving material recovery is the main objective of the developed technology. The Electric and Electronic Industry (EEI) is one of the activities that mostly depends on critical raw materials, which are nowadays poorly recovered: on average 10-12 different elements are recovered out of 50-55 present in an electric and electronic equipment. The extraction and refining of raw materials from natural stocks involve high environmental impact and often unhealthy workplaces.
The existing technology solutions do not address the problem from the materials' point of view. So far, it has not been possible to make an efficient and detailed separation of all components present in an electric/electronic equipment due to the lack of necessary information. Adopting new business models and implementing effective reverse raw material cycles will lead to an acceleration towards the circular economy model, which is a clear opportunity for the related industry to contribute to the issue of resource scarcity and to fight the climate crisis.
The proposed system does not aim at recovering the components of the electronic devices or promoting the reconditioning of electronic devices: these activities can be done in the process of the supply chain, before the end of the life cycle. The innovation is in the process, using data and information to improve the sustainability of the electronics industry. Existing solutions contribute to improve the design or the logistics of waste management, but they do not have a long-term vision.

The system elaborates data to enable the user to know which, where and how much of any material make up an electric/elecronic equipment. It operates as a transmission belt that connects all the actors in the EEI value chain. It collects information about materials from electric/elecronic equipment manufacturers and it elaborates them for:
- managing an assisted real-time manual dismantling of bigger e-waste parts
- automatic real-time disassembling of sub-components

This kind of selection avoids further dilution of the materials present in small quantities as rare and niche metals.
A specific logo to be applied on the electric/electronic equipment has been elaborated. The logo connects that specific product with the technology database thus ensuring the environmental value of the product to final consumers.

In order to improve some process phases and implement the system getting a customised final product, the Italian company is available for research, joint venture and technical cooperation agreements.

Advantages & innovations

Full circularity can not be efficient without sharing data of product components and materials. The developed software ensures complete transparency in the material composition of electric and electronic equipment, thus introducing a new circularity concept, something that never existed before in this field. The technology is strictly related to the digital product passport, because it's focused on improving recovery materials rate, optimizing their useful life and increasing their value. Relevant advantages can be summarised as follows: - reducing e-waste generation - promoting recycling - preserving natural resources - performing better sorting - improving circular economy processes - preventing illegal dumping and emissions

Stage of development

Proposal under development


Contact/ source: Enterprise Europe Network (europa.eu)

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