Korea Zinc invests in Igneo Technologies - Recycling Today

2022-09-17 07:38:44 By : Mr. Jason Zhang

The investment will allow Igneo to accelerate its global growth strategy, including the construction of a new secondary smelter in Savannah, Georgia.

Igneo Technologies LLC, which is headquartered in White Plains, New York, says it has finalized a majority investment agreement with Korea Zinc, a metals smelting company based in Seoul that specializes in precious and nonferrous metals.

In a disclosure posted on its website, Korea Zinc says it has taken a 73.21 percent share in Igneo for 432.4 billion Korean won, or $330 million, through its United States subsidiary, Pedal Point Holdings.

Established in 1974, Korea Zinc produces 1 million tons per year of 18 different nonferrous metals, including zinc, lead, copper, gold and silver. Korea Zinc launched Pedal Point, a wholly owned subsidiary, last December to build out its presence as a global integrated circular resource platform.

Igneo says the capital investment and strategic support will allow it to accelerate its global growth strategy, including projects currently underway, such as the construction of a new secondary smelter in Savannah, Georgia, that will process 90,000 metric tons annually once it is online in early 2024.

Igneo Chief Operations Officer Brian Diesselhorst says the companies have been in discussions for six months regarding the deal. While private equity investors were offering higher valuations, Igneo selected Korea Zinc’s offer because the company represents a strategic partner that allows Igneo to achieve full circularity, he adds.  

Igneo CEO Danish Mir says Korea Zinc shares Igneo’s vision and commitment to creating a circular economy. While he says other mining and smelting companies talk about sustainability, Korea Zinc is “forging the relationships and assembling the pieces” that will enable the company to meet its commitments and the goals it has established. “That’s what drew us to them.”

He adds that the partnership with Korea Zinc enables vertical integration, with the copper concentrate that Igneo produces being used to produce copper foil that will be used in manufacturing electric vehicles, for example.

Igneo presently operates a metal recovery furnace in Isbergues, France, with an infeed capacity of 30,000 metric tons annually. That plant initially was known as Terra Nova SAS, and it was constructed by scientists who developed the pyrolysis technology the company used.

The company that would come to be known as Igneo purchased Terra Nova out of bankruptcy in 2014, finetuned the technology and renamed the plant WEEE Metallica. It has since been renamed Igneo France SAS.

Igneo is set to break ground on its Savannah facility at the end of August or in September, Mir says. That facility will have two furnaces with 90,000 tons of combined “sustainable copper concentrate” output. The first furnace is expected to go online in 2024. “Based on its ramp-up, we will determine timeframe [to install] the second furnace,” he says, adding that permits for the facility are in place.

The company uses pyrolysis to transform low-end electronics into copper concentrate.

The byproduct generated in the process is a baghouse dust that contains a good deal of tin, Mir says. “That is going to a tin processor for the recovery of tin.”

Igneo has what Mir describes as a “robust and bespoke gas handling system” that neutralizes the gaseous plastics and resins found in the infeed material using various steps.

Igneo has been able to reduce its natural gas consumption at its plant in France by 95 percent by using its waste heat, he adds, furthering the sustainability of its process.

The Savannah site will use furnaces built by John Cockerill, headquartered in Belgium, and shredding equipment supplied by French company MTB Recycling, Mir says. The site also will have magnets and eddy currents and potentially optical sorters.  

“We can handle low-grade material,” Mir says. “That’s what makes us special.” Rather than rely on printed circuit boards as infeed material, he says Igneo can take small electronic devices, such as calculators, alarm clocks and toys, and process them. He describes these devices as the “fastest growing fraction” of end-of-life electronics, adding, “and people don’t have an answer for it.”

The Savannah location will be fed in part using scrap from evTerra Recycling, a subsidiary of Igneo's that processes end-of-life electronics. Unlike other companies in the space that primarily focus on remarketing devices and components from high-end devices, evTerra is targeting low-grade and midgrade devices.

When it comes to supplying the Savannah plant, Mir says, “We are going to get the material from the source. We don’t want to be dependent on anyone to provide us.”

Diesselhorst says, “We did not want to be like other secondary smelters beholden to 800 or 900 electronics recyclers.” While the company will recover and remarket some components, it will primarily focus on processing incoming devices into a form that is ideal for Igneo’s pyrolysis process, he adds.

Evterra has processing operations in Las Vegas and Atlanta and a sales office in Tampa, Florida. The company will be opening additional processing locations in Chicago and San Antonio in August and September, respectively, with their shredders coming online three months later, Diesselhorst says. When all the sites are running, evTerra will have 140,000 tons of annual shredding and sorting capacity in the U.S., he adds.    

Mir says the shredders evTerra uses have been modified by the company and also use a number of environmental controls that are not commonly used in the industry. The sites also employ eddy currents and magnetic separators as well as optical sorters. He says the company also may add flotation equipment to further separate materials.

All of evTerra’s processing locations will be outfitted with the same equipment in the same layout and will use the same procedures. This will allow the sites to be “plug and play,” Mir says, and also will enable centralized spare parts storage.

“The strategic partnership with Korea Zinc is an incredible milestone for Igneo,” Mir says in a news release about the Korea Zinc investment. “Their world-class smelting and refining capabilities have made them a global leader in the production and recycling of critical metals.”

Yun B. Choi, vice chairman of Korea Zinc, says, “Tapping into Igneo’s robust capabilities to collect and process end-of-life electronics will allow Korea Zinc to upgrade its standing in secondary copper refining. With Pedal Point now fully running, Korea Zinc will be delving into the wealth of such opportunities in North America and beyond to find partners across verticals with the goal of making metal refining more efficient, circular, and sustainable.” 

Mir says the Igneo leadership team will remain in place and has been tasked by Korea Zinc to execute its vision for the company. He adds that Igneo is looking for a chief strategy officer as well as personnel to fill other roles within the company. 

The report provides more details on what the can industry is doing in the near term to make progress toward its recycling targets.

The Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), Washington, has published the “Aluminum Beverage Can Recycling Primer and Roadmap,” which explains how the aluminum beverage can recycling rate targets that CMI members announced in November 2021 will be achieved. Those target recycling rates are 70 percent by 2030, 80 percent by 2040 and 90 percent by 2050.

The aluminum beverage can is the most recycled beverage container in the United States with a 45 percent recycling rate in 2020, the CMI says. The U.S. aluminum beverage can industry knows improving upon that leading position by achieving these targets will not be easy but would have a significant impact. The CMI says that if the aluminum beverage can recycling rate was 70 percent in 2020, 25.6 billion more cans would have been recycled, generating more than $400 million in revenue for the U.S. recycling system and resulting in energy savings that could power more than 1 million U.S. homes for a year.

“This new report makes clear the opportunity to make progress on our ambitious U.S. aluminum beverage can recycling rate targets, and the steps CMI members are taking in each pillar of action right now to make progress within those pillars,” says CMI Vice President of Sustainability Scott Breen. “We encourage stakeholders to read the report, understand how the targets and their associated economic and environmental benefits can be achieved and join the industry in a collaborative, concerted effort to have more aluminum beverage cans complete their circular journey, which the vast majority of the time is into a new can.”

The CMI has outlined four pillars of action to increase the used beverage can (UBC) recycling rate, and the report provides additional details on how these targets will be achieved:

The report also provides new data on the potential impact of certain pillars, the CMI says. For example, if the U.S. had a national deposit system with recycling rates similar to a state such as Michigan, where there is a 10-cent deposit, an additional 50 billion UBCs would be redeemed through the deposit system and ultimately recycled. This pillar would have the greatest potential impact and would allow the industry to quickly reach its goals, the CMI says, which is why CMI is aggressively pushing for new, well-designed deposit systems.

The CMI worked with Reloop and the U.S. Public Interest Group on a list of principles for such a system. They include using a single entity to manage the system that must meet performance targets, applying appropriate deposit values to avoid market distortion and catalyze high recycling rates, using unredeemed deposits to enhance the recycling system, including all beverage types and containers with only minimal exemptions allowed, providing easy and convenient redemption, ensuring fees vary by material type based on environmental impacts and market values and using technology and clear labeling to reduce fraud and unfairness.

The CMI says in its report that the aluminum can industry will advocate in key states where a relatively substantial number of cans are lost to landfill and the politics are favorable for instituting a deposit return system, citing Illinois, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virgina.

CMI modeling also finds that 23 billion additional aluminum beverage cans could be captured from U.S. households if they all had automatic, cart-based curbside recycling service with robust education. This number was calculated using data from The Recycling Partnership. (CMI was a founding member of what ultimately became The Recycling Partnership and continues general support of the organization.)

To improve away-from-home recycling, in the report, the CMI says it will pilot educating people at event venues on the importance of can recycling. Examples of tactics to be used in the pilot include using see-through iron cages that spell out a word or form a design as they fill up and using receptacles to vote on a topic by putting a can in a certain place. CMI says it will prioritize funding this pilot at a venue that is no longer selling beverages in single-use plastic bottles, adding that the tactics are inspired by Every Can Counts, an initiative that started in Europe and recently spread to Brazil.

If sorting was improved at material recovery facilities (MRFs), an estimated 3.5 billion additional aluminum beverage cans could be collected for recycling, CMI says. The organization issued a report in 2020 finding that up to 1 in 4 UBCs are missorted at MRFs. Last year, with the financial support of Ardagh Metal Packaging and Crown Holdings and in conjunction with The Recycling Partnership, grants were awarded to five MRFs for can capture equipment that will enable the capture of 71 million aluminum beverage cans per year. Ardagh and Crown are continuing to fund activities through CMI to catalyze additional can capture equipment in MRFs, including testing at MRFs of exactly how many cans are being missorted and developing a return on investment (ROI) calculator that was published online for any MRF to use at no cost to determine the ROI of investing in can capture equipment in its facility.

CMI members supporting the targets and financing the activities detailed in the roadmap are aluminum beverage can manufacturers Ardagh Metal Packaging, Canpack, Crown Holdings and Envases; and aluminum can sheet suppliers Constellium, Kaiser Aluminum, Novelis and Tri-Arrows Aluminum.

The Japan-based research team says such distributed recycling systems offer an efficient, cost-effective alternative at the local level.

Researchers from Japan have developed a distributed recycling system that uses microwave-based heating to recycle alkaline batteries, offering what they say is an efficient and cost-effective alternative to recycle e-scrap locally.

Traditionally, material is collected locally and processed at large-scale recycling facilities in a centralized location. While this enables handling a large volume of material at once, it is associated with high transportation costs and energy consumption, the researchers from Ritsumeikan University say.

They add that distributed recycling systems consisting of small recycling facilities offer a sustainable alternative to these conventional recycling systems, greatly reducing the energy requirements for transportation and potentially increasing recycling rates.

In a recent study, researchers from Ritsumeikan University have proposed a small, distributed recycling system for used batteries. “The feasibility to decentralize the recycling of e-waste needs to be analyzed, considering the different characteristics of each municipality,” says Prof. Shoki Kosai, a member of the research team and the first author of the study. “In this study, our focus is on obsolete alkaline batteries as waste product to be treated in a distributed recycling system.”

 The system employed microwave irradiation, which offers selective, rapid heating and reduced energy consumption compared with furnace-based heating, the researchers say. The team’s findings were published in Resources, Environment and Sustainability, made available online June 20 and published in volume 9 Aug. 31.

First, the researchers conducted an empirical study to explore the usability of this microwave-based technique in recycling spent alkaline batteries. Then, they conducted an analytical case study to examine the effectiveness of distributed recycling systems in Japan. A total of 1,710 municipalities in Japan were considered in the study, which used energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions as metrics for testing the effectiveness of the proposed recycling system.

The results of the empirical study showed that microwave-based heating achieved a recovery rate of 97 percent of manganese oxide and zinc from the alkaline batteries. This recovery rate is 1.5 times more than that of conventional electric furnace-based heating, the researchers say, while taking only half the time. The analytical study also revealed highly optimistic results, as the team noted that a balance between centralized and distributed recycling systems can reduce annual energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions across Japan by 26,500 gigajoules and 1.54 gigagrams, or nearly 1,698 short tons, of CO2 equivalent, respectively.

The researchers say their findings provide a good starting point to explore distributed recycling systems using microwave irradiation for metal recovery.

“Through the adoption of this system, areas where natural resources are not available will gain the opportunity to become suppliers of secondary resources,” Kosai says. “This system could also remedy the problem of metal recycling in developing countries.”

Ballard Truck Center in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, has become a certified electric vehicle dealer.

Greensboro, North Carolina-based Mack Trucks has announced that its dealer Ballard Truck Center in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, has become a certified electric vehicle (EV) dealer and is equipped to service and support the Mack LR Electric.

Mack calls that model its first fully electric Class 8 refuse truck and says Ballard Truck Center is its first dealership to be EV-certified in New England.

“Ballard Truck Center is another example of a dealership that is committed to support both diesel-powered and battery-electric vehicles,” says Jonathan Randall, Mack Trucks senior vice president of sales and commercial operations. “Mack and Ballard are committed to helping customers achieve their sustainability goals, and we congratulate Ballard on this milestone.”

Ballard Truck Center has 11 service bays, one of which is now dedicated to servicing EVs. According to Mack, EV-certified dealers must meet “numerous stringent infrastructure, training, safety, charging and tooling requirements.”

“Ballard wanted to be sure that we were ready to accommodate our customers for when they choose to purchase an electric vehicle,” says Robert Picking, head of business development for Ballard Truck Center. “Customers have expressed a lot of interest in electric vehicles, and the Mack LR Electric in particular, and we look forward to supporting these customers in the future.”

The current generation of the Mack LR Electric was launched this March and features as standard 376 kilowatt hours of total battery capacity. Mack says this offers 42 percent more energy and increased range between charges compared with previous models.

Four nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide (NMC) lithium-ion batteries power the vehicle and all onboard accessories through several circuits. A two-stage regenerative braking system helps recapture energy from the hundreds of stops the vehicle makes each day, says Mack Trucks.

Featuring a copper-colored Mack Bulldog on the cab of the vehicle to denote the all-electric powertrain, the Mack LR Electric can be fitted with bodies from various manufacturers to “meet the unique needs of each customer,” according to Mack.

Mack describes Ballard Truck Center as a fifth-generation family-owned business that was founded in 1906 as a blacksmith shop. Ballard Truck Center has five branches in Massachusetts and a location in Johnston, Rhode Island.

MRF in Sunnyvale, California, adds sorting robots with RecycleOS programming.

Fremont, California-based EverestLabs says the Sunnyvale material recovery facility (MRF) in that California city has announced it will complete the installation of additional EverestLabs RecycleOS-powered robotics by the end of this month.

The installation is taking place at the Sunnyvale Materials Recovery and Transfer Station (SMaRT Station), which process collected material in Mountain View and Sunnyvale, California, processing 7,500 tons of recyclables annually.

The SMaRT Station accepts municipal solid waste (MSW) and recycling materials from 235,000 residents and all businesses in Sunnyvale and Mountain View. The installation of the robotics is expected to increase material recovery by a factor of “two to three times higher than human sorters and help alleviate labor availability issues,” according to EverestLabs.

RecycleOS-powered robotics will deliver 49 percent more picks using 45 percent less space than competing solutions in the market, says the firm. RecycleOS will also enable the Sunnyvale facility to track data for “real-time continuous improvement and reporting,” EverestLabs says.

“We elected to expand the use of EverestLabs robots because of their small footprint, ease of installation, and successful recovery of hard-to-recover objects like HDPE [high-density polyethylene] milk jugs and in tight locations,” says Jeff Dobert, director of operations at Bay Counties SMaRT.

He adds, “We not only tested EverestLabs solutions extensively on our site but also saw how successful RecycleOS-powered robotics have been at our sister site in Northern California and other locations nationally. It is a no-brainer to continue expansion in our plant. EverestLabs’ AI [artificial intelligence] object recognition and software platform is by far the best we’ve seen.”

JD Ambati, founder and CEO of EverestLabs, says, “We truly appreciate the commitment of Bay counties SMaRT led by Jeff Dobert and Facilities Manager Jeff Nabhan and the entire City of Sunnyvale staff. Today, the RecycleOS enterprise AI platform is enabling MRF operators, the unsung heroes of the recycling ecosystem, to directly impact climate change by recovering more high-quality recyclables for manufacturing.”

EverestLabs says it has increased the operational efficacy of MRFs by performing quality control and net new recovery tasks with 99 percent uptime, high AI accuracy of 95 percent-plus and a robotic efficacy rate of more than 90 percent.

EverestLabs, which is funded in part by American, Canadian and Japanese venture funds, describes RecycleOS as “the only enterprise AI software and automation solution for addressing critical problems in recycling plants or MRFs.”