„Electrocycling“ as a first idea
In the early nineties, the Preussag AG Metall started a R&D-project on the processing of electronic waste based on its comprehensive technical knowledge from techniques used in the mining industry. Right from the start, the recovery of raw materials contained in the product flow was just as important as the removal of hazardous components. At that time, old electronic devices were disposed on landfill sites even though they contain a reasonably higher degree of metal than many profitable ores, as pre-studies have shown.
In 1994 it was decided to build a facility after the process development had successfully been finished. Two companies, Electrocycling Anlagen GmbH (owner of the facility) and Electrocycling GmbH (operator of the facility), were founded by Deutsche Bundespost Telekom, Siemens AG, Alcatel SELAG, and Noell GmbH to build and run the facility. On a site for industrial purposes nearby the city of Goslar, the facility was erected and started operating in August, 1995.
During the first couple of years about 100 staff members processed around 1,000 tons of old electronic devices per month. The material was taken mainly by business customers and partners in Germany. In 1996, Electrocycling took on dismantling jobs for its customers as well. When the telephone network was converted from analog to digital, Electrocycling uninstalled more than 50,000 tons of analog technologies and recycled them in Goslar. Over the years the processed quantities increased to 2,500 tons per month in the beginning of 2000. The number of staff members increased to about 130 around that time.
With the implementation of the ElektroG in 2006, Electrocycling accepted increasingly more old electronic devices from regular households which led to rising numbers of recycled material. Thereupon Electrocycling expanded its capacities from 30,000 to 80,000 tons per year in 2010. Since 2011, 160 staff members process around 4,000 tons per month.
Research and development
The process technology in use is constantly being checked and optimized. In addition, Electrocycling is a part of different research projects in cooperation with producers and institutes. Electrocycling employs two process engineers for these purposes and thus enables students to do research in this field for their final theses.
Currently two projects are being promoted. The first one deals with the recycling of lithium-ion batteries, the second one is looking for processes to recover indium from flat screens.
Electrocycling continuously participates in working groups and associations to work on technical and legal standards for recycling old electronic devices.
- VDM (Verein Deutscher Metallhändler e.V.;Bundesverband des Metallgroßhandels und der NE-Metallrecyclingwirtschaft) http://www.metal-trading.org/
- ESN (Entsorgergemeinschaft der Deutschen Stahl- und NE-Metall-Recycling-Wirtschaft e.V.) http://www.esn-info.de/
- REWIMET (Recycling-Cluster wirtschaftsstrategische Metalle Niedersachsen e. V.) http://www.rewimet.de/