Refacture invents "urban mining"
Urban mining is the solution, according to Refacture. The critical raw materials are to be recycled using the company's plasma technology, instead of filling landfills with industrial waste. Hydro is the first collaborating partner in this project.
Refacture has already established many connections with businesses in the Eyde Cluster. During Eyde Day in November, CCO Ådne Tveit presented how he can contribute to the circular transition and the challenge that critical raw materials should come from sources other than mining.
Watch his speach here:
- We're going to engage in urban mining. We will recycle materials from hazardous industrial waste such as slag and sludge. With our plasma technology, we separate out elements and minerals in the waste by using high-temperature plasma technology. This is a better process than conventional incineration, which often emits CO2, explains Ådne Tveit.
The technology has been known since the 1960s but has not been used in this context before to extract raw materials from by-products. Much of the industrial waste is hazardous, and by handling it this way, useful raw materials can be safely extracted and reused instead of being deposited in nature.
Many of the metals and minerals that are recycled are classified as critical raw materials. These are products we are absolutely dependent on in our modern world, and most of them are currently produced in China. The supply of these materials is therefore seen as a security challenge for the Western world. That's why the EU has developed regulations called the «Critical Raw Material Act», aimed at reducing dependence on individual countries and increasing production in Norway.
Reduce the problem of waste
The waste problem is a crucial point for engaging in urban mining.
- Authorities are increasingly restrictive in granting exemptions from the prohibition on depositing hazardous waste in nature, and in a few years, that option will be gone. Therefore, it is urgent for the industry to find solutions now, says Tveit.
The ambition is to recycle all hazardous waste from the process industry in Norway. The first collaborating partner is Hydro, where we start with the slag called SPL.
- Our business is to extract the metals and sell them on the open market. Additionally, many of the products will be circulated back into the production of the collaborating partner. This is a significant step towards a circular process industry, says Tveit.
Close to Hydro
Refacture's team consists of 15 highly qualified engineers who have been working with plasma technology for many years. Plasma is widely used in metal refining, but until now, it has not been used for recycling hazardous waste.
- We need to calibrate and optimize the process. Once we are done with piloting, we will build processing plants. These will be small-scale plants placed near the industries that produce the waste, says Tveit, adding:
- The carbon footprint will be minimal, and the production will be highly efficient.
The start of a new industry
Entrepreneur Ådne Tveit found himself in the process industry after meeting American Nick Narsavidze. Narsavidze had been working with this plasma technology for 12-15 years and was familiar with both the possibilities and a network of engineers. Tveit has been working on the concepts and designs of Refacture for the past seven years. As a civil engineer from the USA, Tveit quickly saw that Norway should welcome Refacture and establish the company here.
- I believe this could be the beginning of a new industry. Norway is among the countries at the forefront of environmental focus and the circular economy. Here, we also have clean electricity, competent workforce, and a well-developed support system. The Eyde Cluster is also important as a collaborative arena. In the cluster, it's easy to meet and establish contacts with the industry, he says. When Nick, who is the CEO of Refacture, describes Norway to those who are less familiar with us, he says that "it's a country where everyone is friends." That's something we should take with us and build upon, he adds.
There are enormous amounts of hazardous waste around the world. Little of this is recycled, and much of it poses a threat to the environment. Therefore, Refacture has ambitions to grow rapidly internationally to address both challenges - hazardous waste being dumped in nature and the lack of critical raw materials.
- This is a good alternative to conventional mining or searching for minerals on the seabed. There is often a hundred times higher concentration of sought-after minerals in hazardous waste than in ore from a mine, so we look forward to tapping into this resource, admits Tveit.