New Pilot Plant for the Obtention of Zinc Oxide from Zamak Waste

The implementation of this pilot plant at industrial scale will allow to valorise waste coming from the zamak transformation industry and currently managed by depositing it in safety landfills, thus reducing the costs manufacturing cias managing cost

The new pilot plant will allow the valorisation of waste generated within the industrial processes of injection of zamak pieces for its application in products of great usability, like the manufacturing of rubber articles and expanded EVA and the synthesis of catalysts for the sustainable production of hydrogen. Nevertheless, the zinc oxide (ZnO) has a great quantity of applications within the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry, the metallurgical industry, the industry of electrical components and batteries and other manufacturing industries of mirrors, coins, dental cements, paintings, etc. These industries will achieve first quality ZnO from industrial waste.


Nowadays, there is not any kind of technique that allows the obtention of ZnO from this residual origin at industrial scale. The recycling of zamak is usually employed to obtain lower quality ingots, which generates harmful atmospheric emissions. On the other side, it is worthwhile for the managing organisations depositing this waste in controlled landfills, which results in a big amount of waste while the potential use of resources contained in it is wasted.


At present, ZnO is obtained from zincite, a nature derived mineral. With this project, it will be achieved from an industrial waste in a compact pilot plant, what will allow to tackle environmental problems of a different kind.


Waste aimed to be treated is mainly sludge from vibration and slag from smelting, which come from zamak processing industries like the automotive industry, manufacturing companies of electrical engineering equipment, the building industry, furniture, electrical appliances, office equipment, measurement equipment, toys, optics, clock making and a large etcetera.


According to the European Foundry Association, the industry of transformation of zamak alloys generates in Europe approximately 1 million tons of waste, mainly in form of sludge from vibration and slag from smelting. Estimations carried out for the project show that issued waste could be reduced up to 425.000 tons/year, which exceeds in around 100.000 tons the waste production issued in Spain.


This waste, largely considered dangerous, is not given economic value, since it is deposited in safety landfills. Consequently it generates, apart from the related environmental harm, additional costs due to its management and disposal. These costs are mainly covered by the zamak processing industries, whose current costs related to waste management, with this action, could be reduced up to 35%.


Enrique Añó, general co-coordinator of the project, establishes that the results of this project "will allow reusing industrial waste of the non-ferrous metal transformation sectors, which will minimise its environmental impact and the costs related to waste management". He adds that "nowadays there are not technological developments at industrial scale economically feasible to valorise this waste and, consequently, it is more profitable to send it to landfills". Giving it value by this action, "will allow to obtain ZnO without causing CO2 emissions and its expansion on the market will enable using a more environmentally-sustainable ZnO from industrial waste". Additionally, he says that "one of the project actions will demonstrate the feasibility of the ZnO obtained to several industrial applications, as activator in the rubber vulcanization, EVA accelerator and chemical catalysis".


Ruben Beneito, the other co-coordinator of the project, states that "the use of the ZnO obtained thanks to the GREENZO project as catalytic support for the production of hydrogen from ethanol waste, contributes to the European Commission objectives on the shortening of dependence on fossil fuels, which will open a door towards a new production process of totally-renewable hydrogen, including the catalyst itself".


This project, which will be developed in 3 years, is funded by the European Commission through the funding instrument LIFE13 ENV/ES/000173. Its kick-off meeting, coordinated by AIJU and with the participation of the research centre ITQ-CSIC and the companies WORTEUROPE and CAUCHOS KAREY, was held last June 18th at AIJU's facilities, where the basis to reach the objectives aimed was established.

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