If the economies around the world are to continue to grow, then better use must be made of the raw materials hidden away in products, buildings and waste. Experts have even come up with a name for it: “urban mining.” The technologies and services required to exploit this opportunity to the full will be on show in Munich, Germany, Sept. 13 to 20, 2010, at the environmental technology trade fair IFAT 2010.
Every city is a giant raw materials mine. In times of dwindling natural deposits coupled with growing demand, in particular from the economies of China and India, efficient use of the resources that are already available will become a more pressing concern.
One example here is metal. Standard metals such as iron, steel, lead, copper, zinc and aluminium are already recycled to produce secondary raw materials in many countries. Over the last four years, the price of aluminium rose by 80%, and that of copper by as much as 300%. And, although raw material prices have fallen dramatically again as a result of the economic crisis, “long-term the direction of prices remains upwards, despite such price fluctuations,” according to the German Ministry of the Environment.
The current economic crisis is having a positive effect on business in recycling building waste. More activity is being seen in renovations and modernization of existing buildings than in new builds. As a result, more waste material is being generated, and this is helping to compensate for the current downturn in the building sector.
Other types of material of interest to urban mining are biowaste, glass, paper and card, plastics and compound materials. Recycling here is also having a positive effect on climate protection. Germany’s “dual system” for recycling saved 59 billion mega joules of primary energy in 2008 through the recycling of 2.6 million tonnes of used packaging. That’s a saving of 1.4 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide emissions. According to Duales System Deutschland GmbH, which operates the scheme, that is equivalent to the volume of emissions generated by 630,000 cars in one year.
In striving to achieve a closed cycle of materials by recovering material from industry and private households, one of the main challenges is to ensure the required resources are recovered in adequate quantities, on a continuous basis and in a constant quality. The problem is that the materials that are available occur in small, sometimes very small quantities, and there are tremendous variations in both quantity and composition. If secondary raw materials are to be recovered in a cost-efficient way, and with a high yield, they have to be identified as fully as possible and managed in an efficient, properly coordinated recycling chain, through all the stages of logistics, sorting/dismantling, preparation and final processing.
Further information is available at www.ifat.de.
Source: Messe München International