The New Zealand government has provided NZ$ 80 000 (or US$ 55 600) worth of funding to Mint Innovation so the chemistry and microbiology specialist can explore new ways to recover valuable metals from used electronics.
New Zealand is ready to step up its game when it comes to electronics recycling, according to Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage. She announced the grant received by Auckland-based Mint Innovation last week, stressing that priority metals such as lithium and copper should be retrieved from post-consumer devices rather than ending up in landfill.
Getting the gold back
As a first step, Mint Innovation is launching a feasibility study to find out what kind of technology is required to reach higher levels of electronics recycling. The company’s ceo Will Barker estimates that the 4.7 million residents of New Zealand discard approximately 100 000 tonnes of electronics every single year.
The entrepreneur believes that some 600 kg of gold and no less than 600 tonnes of copper is currently ‘just sitting’ in landfills around the country.
This investment is a good fit with New Zealand’s Waste Minimization Fund, which was established in 2009, Sage points out. The resource efficiency-driven fund is financed by a levy of NZ$ 10 (or US$7) per ton charged on waste going into landfills
Sage: Ignoring New Zealand’s urban mine is ‘a huge waste’.
‘As a nation we need to accelerate our transition to a circular economy, where the products we make and use are designed to be reused, recycled or composted, so that waste is designed out of the system,’ she urges.
Recently, plastics recycling company Astron has also received a grant of NZ$ 500 000 (or US$ 345 000). The investment will allow the recycler to expand its capacity, specifically targeting difficult-to-recycle plastics. This includes agricultural plastics as well as milk powder bags.