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Direct reduction of black mass for spent LIB recycling

LIB performance is especially dependent on the active cathode material, which commercially consists of one of a handful of electrochemically active compound types containing Co, Ni, Mn and Fe in different proportions, in addition to Li. A significant number of researchers have tried to design processes to repair or recycle cathode materials in spent LIBs.

In general, LIB recycling and material recovery occurs in two stages: physical and chemical separation. The physical separation step involves mechanical pre-treatment of the LIB packs to isolate the various battery components (e.g. cathode, anode, membrane, liner, electrolyte, casing, etc).

There is also a mechanochemical process, which is basically using grinding or other mechanical means to prepare the cathode into ready-to-separate/recover form but its use is quite rare. The chemical separation step is broadly broken into hydrometallurgical and pyrometallurgical methods. Hydrometallurgical technologies implement metals recovery from the black mass by acid/alkaline leaching, precipitation, solvent extraction and/or ion exchange resins. These processes involve harmful chemicals, generate huge effluent volumes, and consume large quantities of water, all of which have negative environmental and cost impacts.

On the other hand, pyrometallurgical processes are focused on the production of metallic alloys by melting the black mass at high temperatures, thus requiring a significant amount of energy. Pyrometallurgical processes also require subsequent hydrometallurgical processing (albeit to a lesser degree) to further separate the alloys. There may be a dichotomy on which route is better (may be none), and these technologies need to be challenged, and the status quo should be disrupted. With this in mind, XProEM developed a proprietary Solid-State Subtractive Metallurgy (S3M) process which provides a unique and sustainable solution to tackle the imminent problem of recycling spent LIBs by directly recovering cobalt and nickel into their metallic powder forms via a solid-state reduction process. As the process is completed in solid state, it is expected to require less energy than existing smelting based pyrometallurgical processes. It also eliminates the requirement for toxic solvent consumption and hazardous wastewater treatment as is the case for current hydrometallurgical processes.

Carbothermal reduction of iron oxides is one of the oldest technological processes that has defined human history during the last millennium or so, since the beginning of the Iron Age. Interest in the study of solid direct reduction of iron oxides is supported nowadays with its increased industrial application for the production of sponge iron or direct reduced iron for ferrous and other non-ferrous operations. It is no wonder that the mechanism of this reaction (and similar processes of carbothermal reduction of Co, Ni and Cu oxides) has been the subject of a myriad of studies during this century. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain the interaction of two solid reactants (oxide and carbon) at temperatures of around 800-1,100°C with the formation of solid metal. The oldest and most widespread is the mechanism of oxide reduction through gaseous intermediates CO and CO2 in accordance with the following reactions:

MO (s) + CO(g) = M(s) + CO2 (g)                 

CO2(g) + C(s) = 2CO(g)            

Where M is the metal and MO is the metal oxide. 

In the beginning of the 1980s, L’vov suggested a reaction mechanism of oxide reduction through gaseous carbides formed via the interaction of metallic vapours with carbon.

2MO(s) + MC2(g) = 3M (g) + 2CO

2C(s) + M(g) = MC2(g)

This mechanism has been supported by the direct observation of metallic and gaseous carbide vapours by mass spectrometry. It has been used for the interpretation of temporal oscillations in the kinetics of interaction of carbon with the oxides of different elements. However, contrary to preliminary expectations, this mechanism cannot be applied to the reduction of Fe, Co, Ni and Cu oxides owing to the low saturated pressure of metals at high reduction temperatures and the impossibility of transportation of metal vapour to carbon in line with reaction.

Digonskii subsequently proposed a mechanism of reduction through gaseous intermediates of H2 and H2O:

MO(s) + H2 = M(s) + H2O

C(s) + H2O = H2 + CO    

Hydrogen in the reaction mixture generates from the water vapour adsorbed on the surface of carbon. However, there is still some skepticism on the presence of H2 in quantities which are necessary for the reduction to occur efficiently, especially under vacuum conditions. Baikov, Tammann and Sworykin and Baikov and Tumarev tried to employ a high temperature dissociation model for explaining the carbothermal reduction mechanism in accordance with the following reactions:

MO(s) = M(s) + ½O2

C(s) + O2 = CO2        

However, the equilibrium partial pressures of oxygen for reaction is ultra low to explain real rates of reduction. For this reason, this scheme is usually not accepted by the majority of researchers.

The main conclusion from Lvov’s study is that the process of carbothermal reduction of iron, cobalt, nickel and copper oxides is actually the decomposition process typical for many other types of solid-state decomposition reactions. It can be described in the framework of the mechanism of dissociative evaporation of oxide material with the simultaneous condensation of metal at the oxide/metal interface. Some important features of the carbothermal reduction process, such as initial temperatures and activation energies, were quantitatively interpreted on this basis. The origin of the induction and acceleration periods in the development of reduction has been explained. The function of carbon in this process is to react with the oxygen liberated from the decomposition of the oxide, thus maintaining a low partial pressure of oxygen in the system. In other words, carbon fulfills the role of a buffer in this process. This conclusion is supported by an appearance of metals in the condensed phase and a higher than equilibrium partial pressure of oxygen in the high-vacuum experiments with Knudsen cells. 

Solid State Reduction of Black Mass: 

The concept of carbothermal solid-state reaction can be similarly applied to black mass or cathode active material which is recovered after physical separation of spent LIBs. Black Mass refers to the metallic component of the LIB cathode, which is rich in transitional metals such as Ni and Co, as well as critical materials such as Li. Below is an Ellingham
diagram showing a clear possibility of carbothermic reduction of Ni and Co at moderate temperatures of 500°C or more. However, Lithium cannot be carbo-thermally reduced as it has a very strong affinity for oxygen (as good as that of Al). The Ellingham diagram clearly indicates that there is room for selective reduction between Ni, Co and Li, and by controlling the temperature and partial pressure of oxygen, the process is thermodynamically feasible. Reducibility of an agglomerated black mass pellet can be defined as the ease of removal of oxygen combined with the metal molecule in oxide form.

Shrinking core model conceptualization for Black Mass: 

In as much as carbothermal reduction is thermodynamically feasible, for such a process to be practically applicable, kinetic obstacles such as high activation energy, long diffusion paths, low porosity, and other physical barriers need to be overcome. The molecularity of most of the involved reactions is 2 or more. But the overall reaction is a first order reaction (or pseudo first order reaction). As the order and molecularity of the reaction is different, it implies that intermediates are formed during the reduction process. Reducibility as defined before is the ease of removal of oxygen combined with the metal molecule in oxide form. The reaction is a gas-solid reaction and reduction in the interior of the black mass pellet is possible as a result of pores which form on the surface and allows gases to access the entire mass of the pellet to make the reduction viable. 

Heat transfer in the reactor takes place by all three modes of heat transfer (conduction, convection & radiation). As the conversion of metallic oxides in the black mass to metals is endothermic, heat from freeboard gases gets transferred to the reaction zone to maintain the temperature. This heat loss from the freeboard gases is made up by combustion of CO into CO2. The entire gas coming out of the reactor is generated within the reactor itself. There is a net outflow of CO rich gas from the charge region to the free board. 

A five-step shrinking core model for solid state black mass reduction has been conceptualized based on Levenspiel et al., and Alamsari et al. 

  1. Diffusion of CO gas through the film surrounding the particle to the surface of the solid ash formed on black mass pellets.
  2. Diffusion of CO gas through the blanket of ash to the surface of the unreacted core of the black mass pellet
  3. Reaction of CO gas with black mass metallic oxides (Ni3O4, NiO, Co3O4, CoO) at reaction surface through chemical reactions
  4. Diffusion of gaseous CO2 through the ash back to the gas film layer
  5. Diffusion of CO2 through the gas film to the main body of reducing gases.

If gaseous CO diffuses through a stagnant film onto the surface of the ash as shown in Figure 2, the flux of material, Q, can be defined as the flow of gas per unit surface area, or

equation.pdfwhere S is surface area (m2), N is the amount of CO in moles, kfilm is the gas film kinetic constant (m/s), C is concentration (mole/m3), and D is the molecular diffusion coefficient (m2/s). The same equation can also be applied for diffusion of gas products (CO2 and H2O).

On the ash surface, the flux diffusion can also be stated as

equation_1.pdfwhere kash is the kinetic constant for the ash. Since Cash is difficult to be measured, this variable must be substituted with a measurable parameter.

Assuming, steady state, the flow rate to the surface is equal to the reaction rate at the surface, thus

equation.pdf

equation_1.pdf

equation_2.pdf

equation_3.pdf

where kGAS is the overall kinetic constant on the gas film. This expression can be used as a kinetic expression of diffusion through gas film control.

equation_4.pdf

This equation can be used as kinetic expression of diffusion through ash layer control. Here, ℘e is effective diffusion coefficient of gaseous reactant in the ash layer where Ap is pellet surface area and defined as Ap = 4πRp2 where Rp is pellet radius

Process Considerations in the reactor: 

Based on the above thermodynamics and kinetics and mass transfer considerations, XProEM’s S3M process has been designed as shown in Figure 3 below.

 

Conclusions:

1. Carbothermal reduction of black mass is feasible theoretically. 

2. Practically it is more complicated to balance thermodynamics and kinetics for industrial implementation 

3. XProEM has mastered the Carbothermal reduction of black mass in every aspect and is implementing it in the most efficient manner for the purpose

4. Effectively with careful balancing between reaction thermodynamics and kinetics, it is plausible to control the extent of reaction and achieve any desired ratio of metal to oxide for specific types of metallic compounds, which will be highly conducive to subsequent treatment and processing of black mass

www.xproem.com

European plastics industry expos postponed

On-going uncertainty created by the Coronavirus pandemic led to the decision to delay the Compounding World Expo, Plastics Recycling World Expo, Plastics Extrusion World Expo and Polymer Testing World Expo.

Rita Andrews, head of exhibitions at AMI, said “We have been reviewing the on-going situation and consulting with exhibitors and visitors. Our primary concerns are for the health and safety of all attendees at our events, and delivering the very best audience for our exhibitors. With these factors in mind, we have taken the decision to postpone the expos to 29-30 September 2021”.

AMI announced the decision to reschedule the event on 1 February. Andy Beevers, events director at the company, said: “We felt it was important to make and announce this decision now, in order to end the current uncertainty and to allow exhibitors, speakers and attendees to plan effectively for the new dates. We have had tremendous support and understanding from the industry during this process and are now all looking to forward to a successful return to Essen at the end of September”.

Rita Andrews added: “Exhibitor numbers are up substantially compared to our launch event in 2018, and we want to ensure visitors can feel confident and comfortable in attending the expanded exhibitions”.

Admission to the four expos and their five conference theatres will continue to be free of charge. Registrations that have already been made for the June dates will still be valid, while anyone wanting to register for free tickets for the September dates can do so at the AMI website.

European plastics industry expos postponed

On-going uncertainty created by the Coronavirus pandemic led to the decision to delay the Compounding World Expo, Plastics Recycling World Expo, Plastics Extrusion World Expo and Polymer Testing World Expo.

Rita Andrews, head of exhibitions at AMI, said “We have been reviewing the on-going situation and consulting with exhibitors and visitors. Our primary concerns are for the health and safety of all attendees at our events, and delivering the very best audience for our exhibitors. With these factors in mind, we have taken the decision to postpone the expos to 29-30 September 2021”.

AMI announced the decision to reschedule the event on 1 February. Andy Beevers, events director at the company, said: “We felt it was important to make and announce this decision now, in order to end the current uncertainty and to allow exhibitors, speakers and attendees to plan effectively for the new dates. We have had tremendous support and understanding from the industry during this process and are now all looking to forward to a successful return to Essen at the end of September”.

Rita Andrews added: “Exhibitor numbers are up substantially compared to our launch event in 2018, and we want to ensure visitors can feel confident and comfortable in attending the expanded exhibitions”.

Admission to the four expos and their five conference theatres will continue to be free of charge. Registrations that have already been made for the June dates will still be valid, while anyone wanting to register for free tickets for the September dates can do so at the AMI website.

EuRIC: Boosting metal recycling in Europe

Thanks to their intrinsic properties and market value, discarded metals have been recycled for decades and used to produce new ferrous and non-ferrous metals again and again.

Metal recycling is a must to achieve the climate and circular economy targets set by the European Green Deal and the new Circular Economy Action Plan. Metals are essential in both products and systems which are essential to a low-carbon economy and everyday products. Compared to primary production, steel, aluminium or copper recycling save respectively 58%, 92% and 65% of CO2 emissions and spare primary raw materials often extracted outside Europe where much lower standards apply.

Despite enormous environmental benefits, substantial bottlenecks keep hampering metal recycling in Europe.

  • The first one has to do with the fact that Europe’s industry remains mostly linear with only 12% of the materials it uses coming from recycling. As a result, in Europe, the supply of metal scrap from recycling meeting industry specifications often exceeds the demand and remain under-utilised in metal production.
  • The second one relates to the fact that commodity prices still fail to internalise the massive environmental benefits of metal recycling. There is in EU legislation no incentive that rewards metal recycling lower-carbon and energy footprint when compared with primary raw materials (often extracted outside Europe).
  • The third one is rooted in European waste legislation which hinders more circularity. Metal scrap is a valuable commodity, with a positive environmental footprint, which should not be classified as waste but as secondary raw materials. In addition, a number of procedures pertaining to cross-border shipments or to permitting remain far too burdensome to incentivize circular metal value chains.

For Cinzia Vezzosi, President of EuRIC, “time has come to lay down a more ambitious strategy to boost metal recycling in Europe and support the entire metal value chain, which is a backbone of any modern economy”.

She stressed in particular the absolute need to set up framework conditions and incentives that steers metal recycling and metal production from secondary raw materials by rewarding their environmental benefits. “This should be one of the priorities of the EU Recovery Plan”.  Taking the example of steel, “it is key to support value chains currently striving to migrate from current blast furnaces which use primary iron ore and coal, to electric arc furnaces which use recycled steel and can use power from renewable sources. Low-carbon impact steel and metals in general are not only vital to achieving climate neutrality, it is also instrumental to compete better in a rapidly changing market”, Vezzosi added.

Of equal importance is the need to simplify legislation applicable to circular value chains. “To create a well-functioning EU market for secondary raw materials, metal scrap meeting industry specifications shall no longer be classified as waste. We need to align legislation which hampers the transition towards a more circular economy with overarching EU policy objectives embedded in the Green Deal otherwise circular frontrunners won’t be able to deliver”, she stressed.

Last but not least, guaranteeing free, fair and sustainable trade is more important than ever. We need to refrain from setting any trade restrictions negatively impacting metal scrap processed to industry specifications which operates on an inherently global market. Forthcoming measures shall focus on better pricing carbon-intense imports to level the playing with low-carbon products made of recycled materials.

Download the Circular Metal Strategy

Plastics, a growing environmental and climate concern

The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the attention for plastic waste with images of masks in our seas, and large amounts of single-use protective gear. In the circular plastics economy report, published today, the European Environment Agency (EEA) analyses the need and potential for a shift to a circular and sustainable approach to our use of plastics.

While awareness, concern and action over how we dispose of plastics in the marine environment and elsewhere have grown enormously in recent years, there are many other and less known impacts of plastics, including its contribution to climate change and new challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the EEA report ‘Plastics, the circular economy and Europe′s environment — A priority for action’.

The report looks at plastics production, consumption and trade, the environmental and climate impact of plastics during their life cycle and explores the transition towards a circular plastics economy through three pathways involving policymakers, industry and consumers.

“The challenges posed by plastics are to a large extent due to the fact that our production and consumption systems are not sustainable. The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change have amplified public attention for the plastic waste crisis we face. It is clear that the best way is to shift to a fundamentally sustainable and circular plastics economy, where we use plastics much more wisely and better reuse and recycle them. Moreover, producing plastics from renewable raw materials should be the starting point” said Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director.

The report shows that the production, use and trade of plastics continue to grow. An increasing number of EU policies and initiatives are already in place to address the challenges posed by plastics, in particular those posed by single use plastics. In 2018, the European Commission presented the world’s first comprehensive Strategy on plastics in a circular economy, which lays out the EU’s approach to addressing the challenges of plastics, followed by the Single-Use Plastics Directive in 2019.

The EEA report points to three pathways for the way ahead including smarter use of plastics, increased circularity, and use of renewable raw materials. Together these can help ensure we achieve a sustainable and circular plastics system. Alongside the report, two related briefings on plastics and textiles and on enabling circular business models are also published today.

COVID-19 pandemic and plastics

The coronavirus pandemic has caused changes in the production, consumption and waste of plastics. Plastic masks play a vital role in limiting the further spread of COVID-19. But the surge in plastic waste due to the demand for masks and gloves, plus changed production and use of single use plastics products like food take-away containers and plastic packaging for online sales can jeopardise EU efforts in the short term to curb plastic pollution and move to a more sustainable and circular plastics system.

Industry’s plastics production adding to climate change

The consumption and production of plastics involves the use of large quantities of fossil fuels, which has negative implications for the environment and climate change. Adding to the problem, reduced economic activity has seen sharp falls in global oil prices making it significantly cheaper for manufacturers to produce plastic goods from virgin, fossil-based materials than to use recycled plastic materials. If the production and use of plastics continue to increase as projected, the plastic industry will account for 20 % of global oil use by 2050, an increase from today’s 7 %.

Data from the EEA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory shows that annual emissions related to plastic production in the EU amount to around 13.4 million tonnes of CO2, or about 20 % of the chemicals industry’s emissions EU-wide, the report says. The economic viability of the European and global plastics recycling market is currently under significant pressure. Lower market demand for recycled plastics has also complicated the efforts of many of Europe’s municipalities to manage their waste practices sustainably, and less desirable waste disposal options are being used for significant quantities of plastic waste.

Synthetic textiles a growing problem

A part of the plastics problem is textiles made from synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon. According to a separate EEA briefing which looks at plastics in textiles, consumers in the EU discard about 5.8 million tonnes of textiles annually — around 11 kilograms per person — of which about two thirds consist of synthetic fibres. According to data available from 2017, European households consumed about 13 million tonnes of textile products (clothing, footwear and household textiles). Plastic-based textiles make up about 60 % of clothing and 70 % of household textiles. Promoting sustainable fibre choices and control of microplastic emissions, and improving separate collection, reuse and recycling, have the potential to improve the sustainability and circularity of synthetic textiles in a circular economy.

Circular business models can help tackle the unsustainable production and consumption of plastics

There are increased interest and gainful opportunities in changing traditional business models to make them more circular, enabling materials and products to be reused and to remain in the economy for as long as possible. An EEA briefing ‘A framework for enabling circular business models in Europe,’ also released today, identifies the actions that can be taken to implement circular business models effectively. It also identifies enablers to upscale them on a wide scale as part of the expected shift to a circular economy. Such a transition will require that the right supportive policies are in place and behaviours that lead to change in consumption and education.

Circular economy strategies can cut global emissions by 39%

Circular economy strategies can cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 39% and play a crucial role in avoiding climate breakdown, reveals a report from impact organisation Circle Economy launched today during the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos Agenda Week. The Circularity Gap Report finds that the 22.8 billion tonnes (Gt) of annual emissions associated with creating new products from virgin materials can be eliminated by applying circular strategies that drastically reduce the amount of minerals, fossil fuels, metals and biomass consumed by the world’s economy.

It finds that changes to the ways we construct and use houses, commercial and industrial buildings can achieve half these savings. Changes to how we travel and transport goods and the way we feed ourselves account for most of the rest. The report also offers strategies tailored to countries at different levels of development as they plan to stimulate economic recovery from the Covid pandemic and strengthen their climate commitments ahead of the COP26 UN climate summit in November. Annual emissions reached a record high of 59.1Gt in 2019 and the UN Emissions Gap Report 2020 finds that by 2030 they must fall by 15Gt to keep global warming below 2°C and by 32Gt to achieve the safer limit of 1.5°C.

“The Circularity Gap Report offers not only a sober warning of the danger of climate inaction, but a clear map forward. Collaborative effort among government, business and civil society is necessary to scale the circular economy and drive down emissions. Only through collective investment in and commitment to circular practices can we shape a more sustainable, resilient future”, said Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum

World on course for climate breakdown

The world is currently on course for climate breakdown. Current climate pledges would see global temperature rise by 3.2°C this century. China and the US have recently announced plans to achieve net zero emissions around mid-century, but these are not yet formal national pledges and they are still not enough to meet the Paris Agreement commitment to keep global warming well below 2°C, and ideally 1.5°C. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that going beyond 1.5°C to 2°C would significantly increase extreme weather events with devastating social, environmental and economic consequences.

The Circularity Gap Report has now identified a set of circular strategies that can keep the planet on a well below 2°C trajectory by cutting emissions by 22.8 billion tonnes beyond what is achieved by current pledges, a 39% reduction from 2019 levels.

The report calculates that 70% of all emissions are generated by the extraction, processing and manufacturing of goods to meet society’s needs – the clothes we wear, the phones we own, and the meals we eat. The world is consuming more than 100Gt of materials a year and just 8.6% are reused.

The strategies it identifies would cut annual material consumption to 79Gt, by reducing the volume of materials used to create products and services, using resources for longer, and replacing finite resources like fossil fuels with regenerative resources like renewable energy. They would also increase the proportion of materials that are reused from 8.6% to 17%, nearly doubling the circularity of the global economy.

“Governments are making huge decisions that will shape our climate future. They are spending billions to stimulate their economies after the Covid pandemic and they are committed to strengthening their climate commitments ahead of the Glasgow Climate Summit. Circular economy strategies hold the key to a resource-efficient, low-carbon and inclusive future”, said Martijn Lopes Cardozo, Circle Economy CEO


Huge scope to cut emissions from housing, travel and food

The report finds that three key societal needs are responsible for almost 70% of global emissions and are the areas where circular strategies can have the greatest impact: housing, mobility and nutrition.

Housing – including commercial and industrial buildings – generates 13.5Gt of emissions every year. It consumes vast amounts of virgin resources, it makes abundant use of carbon-intensive materials such as cement and steel, it creates significant emissions from heating and cooling, and it generates huge amounts of waste. With circular strategies, 9.5Gt of construction and demolition waste could be diverted from landfill and reused, reducing the need for virgin materials; cement and steel could be substituted for more lightweight, regenerative materials; and a shift to renewable energy would reduce emissions from heating and cooling. Together these would cut emissions by 11.8Gt and reduce demand for materials by 13.6Gt.

Mobility generates 17.1Gt of emissions a year, primarily from burning fossil fuels for passenger and freight transport. New design approaches to make vehicles lighter will reduce consumption and strategies like car sharing can make their use more efficient. Circular strategies can cut emissions by 5.6Gt and material use by 5.3Gt.

Nutrition generates around 10Gt of emissions a year, including 4Gt of emissions a year from land use alone. As global populations and increase and more people adopt western diets more land is needed to grow crops – especially for animal feed – and for pasture, and this drives deforestation. Regenerative agriculture and aquaculture can reduce the environmental impact of fish, cattle and crop farming while producing good yields. Switching to more plant-based diets will have a lower footprint. Circular strategies can cut emissions by 4.3Gt and material use by 4.5Gt.

‘For billions of years, our home planet was in a perfect cycle: New life constantly emerged out of the same carbon that existed as life before. We need to restore this balance and achieve carbon neutrality without delay. For that, we need to eliminate waste and create products that last, can be repaired and ultimately can be transformed into new products.’ – Martin Frick, Senior Director Policy and Programme Coordination at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change


Blueprints for a circular economy

Different strategies are appropriate to countries at different stages of economic development and the report presents blueprints for action for countries in three broad categories.

Low-income “ Build” countries such as India and Nigeria are home to 48% of the world’s population but struggle to meet their basic needs. Their economies are dominated by agriculture and they are still building basic infrastructure. They use 19% of global resources and generate 17% of emissions.

Priorities include:

  1. Reforming agriculture to avoid monocropping and deforestation;
  2. Applying circular principles to building projects, such as using lightweight materials like wood, clay and loam;
  3. Minimising the need for motorised transport in cities by creating self-sufficient neighbourhoods and introducing electric scooters and public transport;
  4. Formalising and training waste pickers and setting up recycling plants.

    Middle-income “Grow” countries such as China and Brazil, home to 36% of the world’s population, are industrialising rapidly and building infrastructure to lift their populations out of poverty and accommodate a growing middle class. They are global manufacturing hubs and the world’s biggest agricultural producers. They use 51% of resources and generate 47% of emissions.

    Priorities include:
  5. Switching to sustainable agriculture, especially for exports;
  6. Mainstreaming resource-efficient, low-carbon construction materials;
  7. Meeting growing energy demands with renewables;
  8. Setting up infrastructure to collect, sort and process waste materials, especially construction waste.

    Higher-income “Shift” countries such as the US, Japan and European countries, are home to 16% of the world’s population but consume 31% of resources and generate 43% of emissions. They have already developed mature housing, transport and infrastructure to meet the needs of their citizens.

    Priorities include:
  9. Reducing their consumption of animal products and cutting food waste;
  10. Extending the lifespan of buildings and infrastructure through renovation, requiring the reuse of construction materials, and designing new materials so they can be reused;
  11. Extending vehicle lifespans, switching to sharing models such as car clubs and using digital technologies to reduce the need for physical travel;
  12. Ensuring waste is properly valued to maximise its potential for reuse.

    Download the report

How the EPA plans to double the US recycling rate by 2030

This has greatly improved living standards. But as more of these materials are removed from the ground, a proportionate amount of waste is created.

Despite household and industry efforts to decrease waste production and concentrate on re-use, the US recycles less than 25% of its waste. There are many reasons for this. In some cases the costs are prohibitive.

For example, efforts to recover cobalt, lithium, and nickel by dismantling used EV batteries are still a “money-losing endeavor” Bloomberg reports. In China the government is incentivizing the process.

EV sales are expected to soar, massive “money-printing” by governments is underway, and the World Bank anticipates that 3.5 billion tons of waste will be produced annually by 2050. Against this backdrop, it’s no wonder that Goldman Sachs has predicted a bull market for metals. Even amateur day traders are buying metals and stocks of waste management and recycling companies.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a plan to double the recycling rate over the next decade. Below we’ll look at why this is necessary and how the EPA plans to accomplish this.

Not enough waste is recycled throughout the US

In 1960, Americans were responsible for an average of 2.7 pounds of waste per day. This number grew to an average of 4.5 pounds by 2017, almost doubling the amount in less than 60 years.

We would be a long way toward sustainability if we could recycle half of their waste and put it to good use. That isn’t the case. And there isn’t a single reason that so little of our waste is recycled. The causes span everything from collection problems to individual misinformation.

Theoretically, everything can be recycled and transformed. But governments have specific criteria for what materials are suitable for salvaging and re-shaping. And there are economic considerations.

Why does China reject recyclable waste?

For a long time, China was the biggest importer of waste products — not just from the US but from the world. This became a problem starting 2017 when China greatly limited the waste they would import with the long-term goal to eliminate waste imports completely.

There are many aspects of this. Some kinds of wastes (e.g., plastics) are not being imported at all. More important, acceptable contamination levels in waste they will take are much lower. The additional disposal processes necessary cost money to plan and execute.

As a result, the EPA’s strategy to reform the recycling system in the US is critically important.

The EPA’s strategy to reach a 50% recycling rate by 2030

As per the US National Recycling Goal released in 2020, the EPA describes three key measures in focus that may prove successful in recycling over half of the country’s waste within the next 9 years.

These key measures are:

  1. Reducing the contamination rate of recyclable materials
  2. Improving the efficiency of existing and novel recycling processes
  3. Creating novel markets for recycled products and improving existing ones.
Reducing the contamination rate of recyclable materials

Wish-cycling is the problem of people recycling non-recyclable materials. As discussed recently, it is a major problem that local recyclers are still struggling with. Lowering recycling contamination makes the process easier and more economically viable.

The EPA’s strategy involves measuring the amount of contaminants present in recycled materials. This will allow them to track progress and create new benchmarks in hopes of meeting the 2030 target.

Improving the Efficiency of Recycling Processes

The EPA’s second measure involves directing efforts into improving existing recycling systems. At present, the US recycling system is split into three broad steps:

  1. Collecting
  2. Processing
  3. Remanufacturing.

According to the EPA, the aim is to allocate funds towards new equipment that will help improve the efficiency of each of these steps. With these goals in mind, the EPA plans to execute the National Recycling Strategy. This will allow the US to have a more fluid recycling system where the three steps are more closely integrated, increasing the overall output of usable, recycled products.

Creating and Improving Markets for Recycled Products

Growing awareness of climate change and other environmental problems naturally increases demand for recycled consumer products. But if other efforts to improve recycling work, the supply of recycled products could outstrip the demand.

To prepare for a new influx of recycled material, the creation of new recycled and eco-friendly markets is key. The EPA plans to invest resources in broadening existing markets as well as working with hitherto environmentally destructive industries to incorporate new materials into their production processes.

The current state of recycling in the US provides a lot of opportunities for improvement. But it isn’t a simple task. We need to improve our recycling inputs, processing, and demand for final products. The EPA’s National Recycling Goal provides a blueprint for doing just that.

Happy holidays and a successful new year

Gerhard Frassa, pixelio.de

Dear readers,

for this year everything is said. We would like to thank you for your interest and your support and hope that you come back to our site in 2021. We take a short break and will be back on January 11 with news and interesting stories. We wish you happy holidays and a good start into 2021 – and stay healthy.

Michael Brunn
Editor-in-chief

November 2020 crude steel production

Due to the ongoing difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of this month’s figures are estimates that may be revised with next month’s production update.

In Asia, China produced 87.7 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, an increase of 8.0% compared to November 2019. India produced 9.2 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, up 3.5% on November 2019. Japan produced 7.3 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, down 5.9% on November 2019. South Korea’s crude steel production for November 2020 was 5.8 Mt, down by 2.4% on November 2019.

In the European Union, Germany produced 3.4 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, up 14.8% on November 2019. Italy produced 2.0 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, up 3.2% on November 2019. France produced 1.1 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, up 3.7% on November 2019.

In North America, the United States produced 6.1 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, a decrease of 13.7% compared to November 2019.

In the C.I.S., production is estimated to be 8.2 Mt in November 2020, up 7.0% on November 2019. Ukraine produced 1.7 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, up 30.8% on November 2019.

In other Europe, Turkey’s crude steel production for November 2020 was 3.2 Mt, up by 11.6% on November 2019.

In South America, Brazil produced 3.0 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, up 11.2% on November 2019.

November 2020 crude steel production

Due to the ongoing difficulties presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of this month’s figures are estimates that may be revised with next month’s production update.

In Asia, China produced 87.7 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, an increase of 8.0% compared to November 2019. India produced 9.2 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, up 3.5% on November 2019. Japan produced 7.3 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, down 5.9% on November 2019. South Korea’s crude steel production for November 2020 was 5.8 Mt, down by 2.4% on November 2019.

In the European Union, Germany produced 3.4 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, up 14.8% on November 2019. Italy produced 2.0 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, up 3.2% on November 2019. France produced 1.1 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, up 3.7% on November 2019.

In North America, the United States produced 6.1 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, a decrease of 13.7% compared to November 2019.

In the C.I.S., production is estimated to be 8.2 Mt in November 2020, up 7.0% on November 2019. Ukraine produced 1.7 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, up 30.8% on November 2019.

In other Europe, Turkey’s crude steel production for November 2020 was 3.2 Mt, up by 11.6% on November 2019.

In South America, Brazil produced 3.0 Mt of crude steel in November 2020, up 11.2% on November 2019.