New €2.1 million project to map out effective recovery of raw materials from electrical products

14th October 2015

WRAP is to partner with the KTN, Wuppertal Institute, ERP UK Ltd, and EARN for a new, EU LIFE funded project. The project, Critical Raw Material Closed Loop Recovery (‘CRM Recovery’), will explore commercial opportunities for harvesting critical raw materials and precious metals including gold, silver and platinum group metals, from everyday unwanted electronic products and will be the first-of-its-kind to link collection methods with recovery success. 

These critical raw materials (CRMs) are crucial to many electrical products, and the increasing pressure on their supply is a growing economic concern for businesses and governments. However, WRAP research has shown that nearly 40% of electrical products go to landfill when they are disposed of[1]. CRM Recovery aims to address these challenges by exploring viable alternative commercial streams that boost the economy, and sustainable solutions that reduce our reliance on the earth’s natural capital and the need for mining raw materials.

Over the course of the three and a half year project, CRM Recovery aims to increase the recovery of a range of CRMs[2] by 5% from products such as consumer electronics, ICT equipment and small household appliances.

The project will link collection methods[3], such as kerbside collections, retailer take-back schemes or postal returns, to how the material components of these products can be efficiently dismantled, recovered and returned to the market.

This will present environmental benefits by keeping materials in the loop for longer, and by demonstrating the potential to economically recover these materials from Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Findings will be fed back to the European Commission in the form of policy recommendations and proposals for infrastructure development for the cost effective recovery of these precious and critical raw materials.

Four countries will participate – UK[4], Germany, Italy and Turkey, with each country representing varying maturity stages of recovery development, allowing cross-comparison so that a European-wide framework can be developed.

Dr Liz Goodwin OBE, CEO, WRAP said:

“We’re delighted to lead this project which will find effective routes for collecting and recovering valuable materials from electrical and electronic products. I look forward to seeing how these new insights inform the bigger picture, demonstrating the economic and environmental benefits of making better use of resources across Europe”.

Scott Butler, UK and Ireland Regional Director, ERP said:

“ERP UK is supporting the CRM Recovery project because we believe this vital area of research will benefit our producer members and help to achieve a circular economy. The environmental and economic gains from the project’s findings could have a profound effect on the electronics industry and the wider economy.”

Dr Steve Fletcher, Head of Sustainability & Resource Efficiency and Head of Chemistry, KTN said:

“KTN welcome the award of project CRM Recovery by the European LIFE programme. Encouraging sustainable and efficient use of resources is core to KTN’s activities focused on stimulating innovation and economic growth in the UK. Taking part in this project is a further step to enabling businesses to adopt advanced and novel triple bottom line sustainable technologies and services.”

Dr Sven Grieger, Manager WEEE Operations, EARN European Advanced Recycling Network said:

“CRM Recovery will provide both WEEE take-back organisations and recycling operations best practice methods to improve future value-added by increasing the recovery of certain critical raw materials. EARN is joining the project in order to add our knowledge and long-term experiences in WEEE collection and processing across Europe.”

Dr Henning Wilts, Coordinator of the research programme Waste and Resource Efficiency at the Wuppertal Institute said:

"We are pleased to be working on this project, as recovering critical raw materials is important for many modern technologies requiring specific metals. Recovering these materials enables the closure of material loops and provides greater opportunities for continuous innovation.”

Twitter: @CRMRecovery


[1] See Switched on to Value:

[2] Target CRMs include: graphite, cobalt, antimony, tantalum, rare earths, silver, gold and platinum group metals.

[3] Collection routes that could be considered are: kerbside collections and bookable collections; retailer take-back schemes; collection events; business collections; postal returns, as well as looking at the impact of incentivised and non-incentivised activity.

[4] In the UK, the Welsh Government has already confirmed support.


Notes to editors:

The global amount of e-waste generated in 2014 was estimated to be 41.8 million metric tonnes (Mt), which is forecasted to increase to 50 Mt of e-waste in 2018 according to The Global E-waste Monitor. 

A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life. 

About EARN

EARN, the European Advanced Recycling Network, established in 2005, provides professional support for importers or manufacturers of new electrical or electronic equipment (EEE) in order to secure their compliance with the European WEEE Directive.

A network of recycling partners in all European countries is the basic for a unique and complete combination of management services, logistics and recycling of electrical and electronic equipment.

Manufacturers of EEE have to provide a reasonable solution for the take back of their discarded products. Especially for waste from professional equipment (B2B) tailor-made solutions are requested. EARN organizes the individual take back and recycling of WEEE on behalf of EEE producers. The waste from electrical or electronic equipment (WEEE) is treated by the EARN network partners in the country of origin and the recycling volumes and quotes are reported to the authorities. 

Management and knowledge are concentrated in EARN with one single point of contact for manufacturers in Europe. Moreover with the knowledge of recycling materials and techniques within the European network EARN acts in the consolidation and return of secondary raw materials.

About ERP UK Ltd

Operating since 2002, European Recycling Platform (ERP) was founded by electronics producers to provide innovative solutions to the complex challenges posed by the introduction of the WEEE Regulations. Today, ERP offers WEEE, batteries and packaging compliance to producers across Europe and beyond.

ERP has recycled over 2.5 million tonnes of WEEE and batteries on behalf of its producer members, including almost 500,000 tonnes in the UK, making a marked contribution to the environment and sustainability. ERP remains committed to innovation, developing industry-leading quality standards for the treatment of waste; bespoke IT tools for members; and the unique EuropePlus package which coordinates the process of registering and reporting in up to 32 countries.

About KTN

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) is the UK’s innovation network. It brings together businesses, entrepreneurs, academics and funders to develop new products, processes and services. KTN is free to join and is funded by Innovate UK. Established to foster better collaboration between science, creativity and business, KTN has specialist teams covering all sectors of the economy – from defence and aerospace to the creative industries, the built environment to biotechnology and robotics. KTN has helped thousands of businesses secure funding to drive innovation.

About WRAP

WRAP’s vision is a world where resources are used sustainably. It works in partnership with governments, businesses, trade bodies, local authorities, communities and individuals looking for practical advice to improve resource efficiency that delivers both economic and environmental benefits.

Our mission is to accelerate the move to a sustainable resource-efficient economy through:

a.       re-inventing how we design, produce and sell products,

b.       re-thinking how we use and consume products, and

c.        re-defining what is possible through re-use and recycling.

First established in 2000, WRAP is a registered charity.  WRAP works with UK governments and other funders to help deliver their policies on waste prevention and resource efficiency.  WRAP is a registered Charity No 1159512 and registered as a Company limited by guarantee in England & Wales No 4125764. Registered office at Second Floor, Blenheim Court, 19 George Street, Banbury, Oxon, OX16 5BH. 

Find out more about our work in our five year plan.

About Wuppertal Institute

The Wuppertal Institute undertakes research and develops models, strategies and instruments for transitions to a sustainable development at local, national and international level. Sustainability research at the Wuppertal Institute focuses on the resources, climate and energy related challenges and their relation to economy and society. Special emphasis is put on analysing and stimulating innovations that decouple economic growth and wealth from natural resource use.


2.       About EU Life

The Critical Raw Material Closed Loop Recovery project is supported with the contribution of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Community.

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Kirsty Warren

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