New Zealand based Mint Innovation, a clean technology company that focuses on developing unique biometallurgical approaches to recover precious metals from electronic waste, has unveiled what is described as ‘the world’s first e-scrap bio-refinery.’ Using a combination of chemistry and biology, the company’s technology offers local solutions for cities and regions overrun with electronic waste. Mint Innovation’s CEO Dr. Will Barker comments, “Our bio-refinery uses microorganisms to scavenge precious metals from complex waste streams. It is cyanide-free and the process streams themselves are recycled, providing an environmentally responsible solution for the particularly noxious waste stream.”
“The world has an electronic waste problem that is compounded by both consumer demand for the latest electronic gadget and more countries refusing to import e-waste,” Baker stressed. “Some 50 million tones of e-scrap was generated worldwide last year, with the metallic value alone estimated to be close to USD $50 billion (equivalent to EUR 44 billion). This includes USD $22 billion in gold, found primarily in circuit board. That ‘urban ore’ is attractive feedstock for us.”
The New Zealand facility is just a pilot at this point, however Barker says Mint Innovation is already looking ahead to where else it should take its ‘patented’ bioprocessing technology. The primary advantage to the technology is the scalability factor – which enables deployment of city-scale plants that can recover value from e-waste in the city of collection.”
Mint plans to fund and build plants in various cities and/or regions, such as the Birmingham-Manchester-Liverpool triangle in the U.K., where e-waste streams are said to range anywhere from 1,000 tons to 50,000 tons in a single year. Recyclers will first sort the waste into various value streams and send circuit boards to a local Mint Innovation planet. The Mint plants will deal directly with recyclers using transparent payments based on the value of metal recovered.
So far, New Zealand’s government has provided USD $600,000 for the construction of the demo plant, which will be open for inspection by recyclers from around the world. Mint expects to recover metals worth UDS $10,000 from each ton of crushed and powdered e-waste supplied by New Zealand’s IT recycler, Remarkit.