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UK missing a ‘massive opportunity’ with critical materials, claims Axion

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UK missing a ‘massive opportunity’ with critical materials, claims Axion


Published by Kathy Wilkinson for Axion Consulting in Environment and also in Central Government, Local Government

Old computer equipment awaiting recycling in the UK Old computer equipment awaiting recycling in the UK

The UK is missing a ‘massive opportunity’ by failing to capture embedded value from ‘high-tech’ critical materials in waste that could support new jobs and economic growth in sustainable businesses here, claimed a leading recycling specialist.

Wholesale exports of low-grade comingled polymer materials from our commercial and domestic waste streams are depriving the nation of valuable resources that could be re-used in high-quality, higher-value goods, said Axion Polymers Director Keith Freegard.

Developing techniques to identify and extract rare elements, such as platinum, palladium and indium, from currently-landfilled shredder and WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) residues was another key issue to address in the face of rising worldwide demand, rocketing prices and dwindling supply.

Speaking at the recent launch of the KTN Materials Security Special Interest Group, Keith called for stronger legislative frameworks to drive business innovation and safeguard rare materials for processing at home.

“Why sell waste for a few hundred pounds to economies without robust checks on what happens to mixed recyclables when we could keep it in our economy, support hi-tech businesses, create ‘green’ jobs and end up with materials that can be re-manufactured into new goods worth five times as much,” asserted Keith. “We seem to be missing a great opportunity to capture and hold that much-needed upgrade in economic value within our own country’s GDP.”

With the continued rise in electronics waste tonnages and short-life products containing complex components, the big challenge in the next decade is to overcome predicted shortages of rare elements and potentially prohibitive materials prices by developing sophisticated extraction and recycling techniques to recover these elements from diverse waste streams.

Keith added: “I don’t think we’ve even yet begun to really scratch the surface in terms of knowing in which items of WEEE they exist or how we might go about the complex task of recovering them. Having said that, quite often the very tiny concentrations of rare elements in a big pile of electrical scrap are still richer than those found from mining thousands of tonnes of ore just to get a useable amount of the element.”

Knowledge Transfer Networks (KTNs) are national networks set up for specific areas of technology or business, which bring experts together to promote innovation in research and development and knowledge sharing.

Axion Polymers is part of the Axion Group that develops and operates innovative resource recovery and processing solutions for recycling waste materials. The Group works with a wide range of clients within the recycling and process industries on the practical development of new processing and collection methods.

For more information, contact Axion Polymers on 0161 737 6124 or visit the website -


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