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Digging Through New Types Of Waste To Recycle Metals

Metals are ubiquitous in our lives. There are the metal objects we can see—paper clips, kitchen utensils, electronics, cars or bicycles, wires and pipes, lightbulbs, hammers and shovels. Most of those are not recycled, although they could be. But then there are personal care products, glass, paint, and tires—things that contain metals but for which there is no ready way to recover the metal, or the metal is abraded and gets scattered in the environment, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News.

Fortunately, some researchers are thinking about the sustainable use of metals. As metal resources are becoming scarce, scientists and engineers are developing strategies and technologies to economically recover metals that go beyond recycling soda cans.

“If we can recover and reuse chemical elements from waste streams, we have the opportunity to decrease reliance on our remaining natural resources and improve sustainability,” said Kathleen S. Smith, a geochemist at the U.S. Geological Survey.

Agro-mining might also prove useful. This plant-based strategy is being promoted by an international team including Antony van der Ent of the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation and the University of Queensland, in Australia. It takes advantage of the fact that certain plants have the ability to selectively accumulate metals at high amounts from soil or water. Reaping, drying, and incinerating the biomass concentrates the metal in the ash, which in the case of remediating toxic metals at mining or industrial sites is often disposed of in landfills. But for agro-mining, the ash is considered a high-grade “bio-ore.”


Read the entire article from 6 April on Chemical & Engineering News’ website

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