The idea of the project originated from the startup company Elemetal. As a spin-off from Delft Technical University Elemetal started with the development of a hydrometallurgical process to recover copper directly from waste-to-energy bottom ash. Bottom ash is the residue from waste-to-energy facilities and is a rich source of metals. Today bottom ash is treated by physical separation technologies like sieving, magnetic separation and eddy-current separation. These processes used to have a poor recovery on copper from the bottom ashes which resulted in the idea to look a metallurgical approach.
The PCR technology is bases on a leaching process followed by solvent extraction and electrowinning for copper. Together with Attero this concept was developed up to a pilot scale to proof feasibility. Today also more efficient (wet) physical separation technologies are available and under development leading to strong competition with the original developed PCR concept. This made Elemetal and Attero decide to apply the PCR technology more downstream in the value chain of bottom ash processing, where a more concentrated flow of copper is available. An extra benefit would also be the co-extraction of zinc which is significant available in these copper concentrates produced from bottom ash. The consortium aims to refine this copper and zinc into its pure metals by the PCR process. Through the years the PCR process made several iteration and now consists of a physical separation step (sensor sorting) followed by the hydrometallurgical process, which will be demonstrated within the LIFE project.