VIDEO: Veolia recovers precious metals from street sweepings

Veolia has announced plans to recover minute amounts of the rare metal palladium from street sweepings using a novel soil washing-based technology it has developed.

The company has just trialled the process at the Notting Hill Carnival which took place in London over the bank holiday weekend (August 28-29), where it operates a street cleansing contract.

Veolia handles around 30 street cleansing contracts across England, and sees great potential in capturing value from this precious metal which is emitted from vehicle exhausts fitted with catalytic converters in the form of fine dust materials.

Over time, these particles of palladium collect on road surfaces where they can be picked up by street cleansing operations. But until now, extracting it from the rest of the debris has proved challenging.

Veolia has tapped into a way of recovering the metal by separating out the street waste into dry and organic materials through its soil washing facilities and treating the remaining fine dust element, which contains the metal, through its hazardous waste treatment plant in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.

Speaking exclusively to edieWaste, Veolia’s head of technology, Richard Kirkman, said: “We’ve brought this soil washing technology and this palladium recovery technology together so it really makes sense for street sweepings, it makes it economically viable.”

According to the company, the 30,000-tonne plant will be able to extract 5kg of palladium a year using this process. “It’s not huge amounts, but it’s a high value material equating to thousands of pounds per kilo,” said Kirkman.

“We are in the final stages of setting up a new soil washing facility in the Midlands – the material collected from the Notting Hill Carnival clean-up operation will be taken there and treated.”

He added that the street cleansing recovery process will bring in around 0.5M tonnes of extra recyclates a year for the company.

Maxine Perella

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