Extracting the “Mines on Wheels,” An Important Contribution to Sustainability 2012-01-0350
Since the industrial application of the internal combustion engine, the number of vehicles and their technologies has continuously grown world-wide to over 50 million vehicles yearly since 2000 and are forecast to grow to 180 million yearly by 2050. Over time societal and consumer needs with regard to vehicles have changed and environmental considerations have become much more important such as increasing fuel efficiency and reducing vehicle emissions. The precious metals group (PGM) plays an important role in meeting these needs. The continuously increasing use of metals combined with the fact that natural resources are finite make that business as usual is not sustainable.
The automotive industry is the single largest user of PGM's and those contained in end of life catalytic converters are richer than any known primary source of PGM. The vehicle is a “mine on wheels” not only for the PGM contained in the converters but also for other metals used in the advanced technology vehicles.
Umicore is a major supplier of catalytic converters and is active in spent automotive catalyst recycling. Umicore is also a major supplier to and potential recycler of future technologies such as electrical and fuel cell vehicles.
Valuation of material from end-of-life vehicles is an essential part of any recycling process but can be tainted by varying practices or malpractices. Umicore promotes the use of a scientific method based on the real metal content of the spent product where all commercial transactions are assay-based. Accurate analysis is essential, but even more so is the accurate weighing and sampling of incoming material. Umicore provides state-of-the-art material weighing and sampling combined with a unique European based smelting & refining process which guarantees optimum metal yields. Providing a reliable and transparent recycling process allows Umicore to transform the “mines on wheels” into an important contributor to sustainability.