The aim of WP1 is to develop SI traceable reference methods for the determination of mass fractions of TCE (Co, Ga, Ge, In, Ta, Nd, Pr, Dy, Gd, La, Au, Pt, Pd, Rh) in urban mine wastes in the context of recycling. To achieve this, primary isotope ratio measurement methods based on mass spectrometry (isotope dilution, ID-MS and standard addition) and neutron activation (INAA) will be developed and tested specifically for TCEs in three different matrices: Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), Light Emitted Diodes (LEDs) and Lithium Ion Batteries. A specific focus will be put on digestion methods to achieve TCE recovery. These wastes were chosen because they contain different TCE in varying quantities and in combination with other elements, thus it is expected that the sample digestion/preparation will require development each time. Due to the complexity of these materials, matrix interferences will have to be dealt with, for both ICP-MS and INAA. Finally, a sampling plan based on Incremental Sampling will be performed and optimised to derive guidelines for these heterogeneous materials.
In the EU, a fraction of waste PCB, LED and Li-batteries is collected separately and recycled for recovery of key materials. PCB quantities represent 170 000 t in 2018 in the EU and several metals such as gold, platinum, palladium and copper are partially recovered in existing recycling facilities. Efforts are needed to increase recovery rates and to extend the recovery to other TCE and materials. PCBs usually contain all TCEs, though in varying amounts. In general, PCBs contain ∼28% metals, ∼23% plastics and the remaining percentage as ceramics and glass materials]. The metallic part of PCB has economic value, whereas the plastic and ceramic component do not but add to the challenge of recycling and analysis.
LEDs represent 43% of lamps on the market in 2015, approximately 55 million units. It is estimated that more than 32 000 tons of LED will be collected each year from 2030 in Europe. They usually contain mainly glass and plastics and about 6% metals (Ga, In, rare earth elements)], however very few studies exists to date. Other TCEs are present in much lower concentrations and therefore reference methods will only be developed for the TCEs with concentrations at µg/g levels.
In Li-batteries, the main TCE are recovered from the cathode. EID will provide batteries used for electric mobility in which the cathode contains Co. Other TCEs are expected to be present in lower concentrations and similarly to LED, reference methods will only be developed for the TCEs with concentrations at µg/g levels. Furthermore, Li is present as a major element and it has since been added to the updated list of technology critical materials in September 2020.
The aim of this work package is to produce one certified reference material for the TCE in waste with a target uncertainty below 20%. The three candidate materials from WP1 will be evaluated and one will be chosen for certification. The production and certification of the reference material will be carried out according to ISO 17034 General requirements for the competence of reference material producers. To achieve this, in Task 2.1 a detailed plan for the sampling and production will be designed. In Task 2.2, the raw material will be collected specifically for the CRM and screening for TCE mass fractions will be carried out to check the suitability of the material for further processing. Subsequently, the material will be processed and bottled. In Task 2.3, homogeneity and short-term as well as long-term stability tests will be carried out. Then, in Task 2.4, the characterisation study will take place, within which the analytical methods developed in WP1 will be applied. Finally, all available information will be combined and the draft certificates and the draft certification report will be produced. The formal procedure of the certification is not part of this work package, because this can only be realized by a legal entity, e.g. an institute preferably accredited for reference material production.
The aim of WP3 is to establish comparability of results using the methods and RMs developed in WP1 through an inter-laboratory comparison (ILC) to support improved measurement schemes for industry and provide enhanced knowledge for these challenging matrices. This will enable dissemination of knowledge and understanding whilst providing an opportunity for NMIs/DIs and industrial users to demonstrate capability and learnings from WPs 1 and 2. The outcome of the ILC will provide important data and opportunity to improve directly the quality of measurement at the industry level, ensuring maximum impact to the stakeholders and end users. This work package will also deliver a seminar to discuss and disseminate the results and learnings of the ILC (WP4) along with the production of guidelines for routine measurements. Successful dissemination, uptake and implementation of the outcomes of this project are guaranteed due to the strong connections between stakeholders, scientific communities and industry. The output of this WP will provide guidelines for improved routine analysis of TCE in waste materials, demonstrate the analytical capabilities of laboratories and disseminate best practice guidance and learnings from the ILC.
The aim of WP4 is to create impact through dissemination, publication, and exploitation of the project results, including appropriate training and provision of digital tools for end users. The WP will maximise the impact of the scientific work delivered by the project through a combination of interaction with major stakeholders and end-users, including two-way information exchange, input into European standards, engagement with leading industries dealing with TCE analysis, NMIs and policy makers in the areas of circular economy. We will ensure that the results achieved by the JRP are adequately and appropriately communicated to the stakeholders and to the end-user community and that input and feedback is obtained from these communities, which will enable a continuous improvement and adaptation of the project impact and its outcomes.
Relevant end-users of MetroCycleEU are industries such as recycling and mining companies, analytical companies such as service providers and instrument manufacturers (e.g. Mass spectrometry or XRF producers), academia (geologists, chemists, material flow analysts) and the metrological community.
Successful dissemination, uptake and implementation of the outcomes of MetroCycleEU are guaranteed due to the strong project connections and consortium partner networks between stakeholders and scientific communities, industry and academia. For example, our connections with industry are emphasised by the participation of EID, which is leading WP4 and is one of the largest global metal and recycling companies.
In the short term, the tools and methods developed in MetroCycleEU will help to improve the accuracy of TCE measurements in wastes and the quality assessment of the recycling product, therefore improving opportunities for cost-effective recycling. Eventually, the dissemination of the methods and materials from this JRP towards large industries, innovative SMEs and start-ups will foster the required innovation to recycle efficiently more elements from new wastes. Indeed, at present, more “traditional” elements such as copper, silver and gold are recycled, however, the metal market is fluctuating and in the near future, the recovery of many more TCE will become economically viable. The JRP could have benefits that extend beyond the scope of the project such as general improved industrial quality control through improved TCE measurement accuracy e.g. in pharmaceutical or the adaptation of the developed methods for environmental or biogeochemical applications.
Where possible and required, the workshops and meetings mentioned hereafter can be organised either in presence or virtually. In-person meetings may be converted to online attendance depending on the travel restrictions due to the current pandemic context but also to minimize the general Carbon footprint of the project consortium.