New 'Urban Mining' Tools Map Valuable Resources in EU's e-Waste, Scrap Vehicles, Mining Waste

New EU 'Urban Mining' Tools Map Valuable Resources in e-Waste, Scrap Vehicles, Mine Waste

Standardized, consolidated data helps to identify recovery potential of secondary raw materials worth € billions wasted annually

Expert organizations have united to create the first European database of valuable materials available for "urban mining" from scrap vehicles, spent batteries, waste electronic and electrical equipment, and mining wastes.

The Urban Mine Platform (, created by 17 partners in project ProSUM (Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Wastes), presents the flows of precious and base metals and critical raw materials in products in use and throughout their journey to end of life.

The database reveals the amount of valuable materials recovered or lost in the EU's scrap vehicles, batteries, computers, phones, gadgets, appliances and other high tech products discarded annually - roughly 18 million tonnes in all -- the weight of 3 million African elephants.

The EU, Norway and Switzerland generated around 10.5 million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in 2016 - about 23% of the world total. In addition, 2 million tonnes of batteries and some 7 to 8 million tonnes of EU vehicles reach their end-of-life annually. All represent a rich source of secondary critical raw materials (CRMs).

The recently published Global e-Waste Monitor ( reported that the world's 44.7 metric tonnes of e-waste alone (not including vehicles) in 2016 contained €55 billion worth of precious metals and other high value materials.

The Urban Mine Platform contains data for elements and materials in high abundance in these waste products, mainly base metals, precious metals, and critical raw materials.

Dynamic charts offer detailed data and market intelligence on:

• The number and type of products placed on the market, in-stock (in use and hibernating), and generated as waste
• The compositions of key components, materials and elements, such as aluminium, copper, gold or neodymium, in batteries, electronic and electrical equipment (EEE), and vehicles
• Waste flows, including amounts collected, estimates for small batteries and EEE in unsorted municipal solid waste, exported used vehicles, as well as the amount of vehicles, batteries and EEE of unknown whereabouts.

Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine

The ProSUM consortium says "urban mining" to recover valuable CRMs from wastes is vital for securing ongoing supplies for manufacturing and limit dependence on non-EU suppliers.

To that end, the project partners created from over 800 source documents and databases "a state of the art knowledge base, using best available data in a harmonized and updateable format, which allows the recycling industry and policymakers to make more informed investment and policy decisions to increase the supply and recycling of secondary raw materials." It contains "all readily available data on market inputs, stocks in use and hibernated, compositions and waste flows of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), vehicles and batteries for all EU 28 Member States plus Switzerland and Norway."

Pascal Leroy, Secretary General of the WEEE Forum, a Brussels-based not-for-profit association and ProSUM project coordinator states: "Three years in the making, this consolidated database is the world's first 'one stop shop' knowledge data platform on CRMs in waste products -- easy to access, structured, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, up-to-date, impartial, broad in scope, standardized and harmonized, and verifiable." 

In its report, the consortium says that "if all of the EEE in stock in households, businesses and public space was shared out between each EU28+2 inhabitant, each person would own close to 44 EEE products plus another 12 (energy saving) lamps and 33 light fittings, which are counted separately. In addition, there is 0.50 vehicle per person in the fleet. In vehicles, electronics and other applications, there are another 40 batteries in stock per person."

Each EU inhabitant, the report says, would own 250 kg of electronics -- 3.5 times the average adult weight -- in addition to 17 kg of batteries and almost 600 kg of vehicle.

Product trends: The effect of 'more,' 'lighter,' 'smarter' products on raw materials consumption

The report notes that a smartphone contains around 40 different critical raw materials, with a concentration of gold 25 to 30 times that of the richest primary gold ores. Furthermore, miningdiscarded high tech products produces 80% less carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gold compared with primary mining operations.

ProSUM has shown that an increasing number of products contain precious resources such as neodymium (vital for making permanent magnets in motors), indium (used in flat panel displays) and cobalt (used in rechargeable batteries). The Urban Mine Platform makes it possible to see the stocks and flows of these products.

Jaco Huisman of the United Nations University, and ProSUM Scientific Coordinator, states: "Until now, data on such critical raw materials have been produced by a variety of institutions, including government agencies, universities, NGOs, and industry, with the information scattered across various databases in different formats and difficult to compare or aggregate and often representing an outdated snapshot for a certain year only. The ProSUM effort helps remedy that problem, and enables the identification of so-called "hotspots" - the largest stocks of specific materials."

Electrical and Electronic Equipment in the urban mine

The ProSUM project successfully harmonized all available information to map the very dynamic development of the Urban Mine over time. As illustrated in the figure, the entire stock of electronic products constitutes a considerable, and for some materials, rapidly changing Urban Mine for the years 2000 to 2020 (last 5 years projected). The figure displays for the first time the combined effect of rapidly increasing sales in numbers of electronic products, increasing miniaturization of printed circuit board volumes and products appearing (like tablets) and disappearing (like cathode ray tubes) from the market.

These product trends affect the quantity of raw materials in the Urban Mine where, for example, plastics and aluminium content are increasing, copper and gold are stabilizing, and printed circuit board tonnages are in decline.

Europe can potentially mine 2 million tonnes of batteries per year

With respect to batteries, the report points to a sharp jump in the European Union, Switzerland, Norway since year 2000, with 2.7 million tonnes expected to be put on the market in 2020, up from roughly 1.7 million tonnes in 2000. 

European authorities know the fate of only half of the estimated 2 million tonnes of batteries discarded in 2015, about 90% of them lead-based.

Other types of batteries available for urban mining -- nickel-metal hydride, zinc-based and lithium-based -- are a significant source of lithium (7,800 tonnes), cobalt (21,000 tonnes) and manganese (114,000 tonnes).

Vehicles: An increasingly rich source of critical raw materials 

Europe's end of life vehicles (ELV) represent a large source of secondary base metals like steel (213 million tonnes), aluminium (24 million tonnes) and copper (7.3 million tonnes), as well as platinum and palladium used in car catalysts.

Increasingly, vehicles also contain large amounts of critical raw materials due to electronics, as well as alloying elements used in steel, aluminum and magnesium.

Few electric vehicles have yet reached end of life. With sales rising, these will be a source of growing importance for secondary raw materials like neodymium, lithium and cobalt.

The report notes that more than 40% of registered vehicles are "of unknown whereabouts" -- a gap attributable in part to unreliable data on used vehicles traded within the EU, unreported recycling, and exports beyond the EU.

Mining Waste

The project is also amassing information about resources available in mining waste, which deposits are commonly very large but of low metal grade. New data, such as location, type of waste and origin available in a special extension of the database at Minerals4EU (

Mining waste differs in many respects from the other product groups in ProSUM in that there is no EU legislation that requires recycling, there is no major recycling industry, and Eurostat statistics on mining waste are sparse and only at country level.

What's next?

The project outcomes are embedded in the European Commission's (EC) Raw Materials Information System (RMIS - in order to create a more comprehensive and structured repository of knowledge related to primary and secondary sources consumed in the EU, relevant for many stakeholders:

• Manufacturers can gain confidence about future recycled raw material supplies.
• Recyclers will have better intelligence about the changes in product types and material content which impact on their business and provide future recovery potential.
• The mining industry will have greater certainty about the quantities and types of materials needed in the marketplace, mitigating risk and improving profitability.
• Policymakers will be better informed on raw material supplies, which affect jobs and financial institutions, and how materials are linked to energy consumption.
• Researchers will have better data quantity, quality, completeness and reliability.
Maintaining the Urban Mine Platform

The consortium has developed detailed recommendations to create better quality data and continuously update the database, including:

• Improving the characterisation of CRM content in products and waste
• Further quantifying stocks and flows in the urban mine and describing all kinds of complementary and leakage flows
• Continue harmonizing data, EU reporting and the interoperability of data and datasets
• Expand Urban Mine Platform's scope to recoverable materials in other waste streams

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"The ProSUM project has advanced the knowledge base for extractive wastes by assessing the availability of data on CRMs in mining waste deposits and expanding the scope of the Minerals Knowledge Data Platform to include more mining, processing, and waste reprocessing activities in future."
Katerina Adam, Associate Professor, School of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering, National Technical University of Athens

"Better knowledge of amounts and content of critical raw material is fundamental for both research in the field of recycling and as a background material to convince a board in a recycling company to fund investment in recycling capacity. Legislators need similar information to develop for society efficient Extended Producer Liability Systems. The database developed by the ProSUM project is a very good start and one step closer to a more circular economy."
Christer Forsgren, CTO, Stena Metall, and Adjunct Professor in Industrial Material Recycling, Chalmers Technical University, Sweden

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The ProSUM consortium:

BRGM - Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières, France

BRGM (the French Geological Survey) is a French Public Institution responsible for mobilising the Earth Sciences in the sustainable management of georesources and the subsurface domain. BRGM's research and development programs, financed by the Ministry of Research, support innovation and work towards advancing the Earth Sciences in strategic areas, both on a national and international scale. BRGM is involved in a high standard of research activities under the supervision of the Research Division, which ensures the quality of the undergoing research projects. BRGM activity covers the whole spectrum of the management of mineral resources, from fundamental research (e.g. ore forming processes, metallogenic syntheses, predictive mapping, etc.), including exploration, expertise, development of geological and mining data infrastructures, management of after mine problems, to raw material economy. In the same way, BRGM has an international expertise in information systems, being part or leading European drafting teams and working group of the INSPIRE directive. At national level, it is in charge of the development and hosting of the National Environment Portal and of the National Geo-catalog (national catalog for INSPIRE), and of the "National Portal about Environment". Promoting interoperability in geosciences and environmental information, BRGM is contributing to OGC development and to GeoSciML and ERML (through IUGS/CGI).

CBS- Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, Netherlands

Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (Statistics Netherlands or CBS) is responsible for the collection and processing of data in order to publish statistics to be used by policymakers and by scientists. In addition to its responsibility for official national statistics, CBS has the task of producing EU statistics. The mission of CBS is to publish reliable and coherent statistical information that meets the needs of society. In view of this mission, the quality of the statistical information must be guaranteed. For this reason CBS developed a system of quality assurance based on the highest international criteria.

CGS - Czech Geological Survey, Czech Republic

The Czech Geological Survey is a state-funded organisation that compiles, stores, interprets and provides objective expert geological information for the state administration, the private sector and the public. The research institute is supervised by the Ministry of the Environment and is responsible for providing the state geological service in the Czech Republic. It is the only institution with the mission to systematically investigate the geological composition of the whole Czech territory since 1919. The main fields of expertise include research on mineral resources, assessment of their economic potential and mining impact, geological research and mapping, geochemistry, applied geology, natural risks, management and delivery of geodata.
Contact: Website:

Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden

Chalmers University of Technology focuses on research and education in technology, natural science, architecture, maritime and other management areas. The Division of Environmental Systems Analysis conducts research to find more sustainable technology solutions to better meet environmental and resource constraints faced. Among other, technology assessments in the fields of vehicles, materials and end-of-life management are carried out, often in collaboration with industry. Examples of recent research topics are circular economy measures for manufacturing industries, policy for recycling of scarce metals in vehicles and life cycle environmental impacts of electrified vehicle components.
Contact: Website:

C-tech Innovation, UK

C-Tech Innovation Ltd is an independently owned research and technology development company (50+ employees), providing research and innovation services to companies, universities and governmental bodies. The company is a leading centre for the development of novel and technological processes, which are used to replace or enhance conventional process routes. C-Tech has extensive experience in the industrial materials processing sector, including technology for recovery of materials from WEEE.
Contact: Website:

EGS - EuroGeoSurveys, Belgium

EuroGeoSurveys (EGS) is the organisation of the Geological Surveys of Europe, the national institutions responsible for the geological inventory, monitoring, knowledge and research for the security, health and prosperity of the society. Its mission is to provide public Earth Science knowledge to support the EU's competitiveness, social well-being, environmental management and international commitments. EGS operates on a European scale, working with industry, universities and research centres, and putting its knowledge base at the disposal of all European citizens, institutions and media. In particular, EGS provides a unique, independent, source of scientific expertise and advice to the EU institutions on all matters related to on-shore and offshore geological resources and/or hazards. With the support of its 37 national members, EGS actively contributed, and still contributes, to a number of EU policy and legislative developments.
Contact: Website:

Empa, Switzerland

Empa is the interdisciplinary research and services institution for material sciences and technology development of the ETH Domain. Empa's R&D activities are oriented to meeting the requirements of industry and the needs of society, and link applications-oriented research with the practical implementation of new ideas. Safety, reliability and sustainability of materials and systems form a common thread running through all Empa activities. The priorities of Empa's research are structured in five Research Focus Areas with the following topics: Nanostructured Materials, Sustainable Built Environment, Health and Performance, Natural Resources and Pollutants, and Energy. Empa's Technology and Society Laboratory (TSL) aims at creating and transferring knowledge for the transition to a more sustainable society, with a focus on the analysis and evaluation of material and energy stock and flows associated with novel materials and emerging technology applications.
Contact: Website:

Eucobat, Belgium

Eucobat is the European association of national collection schemes for batteries. The members ensure that all spent batteries are collected and recycled in an environmentally sound way. The objectives of Eucobat are to represent the interests of the national compliance organisations for batteries in Europe and monitor the EU Battery Directive 2006/66/EC.
Contact: Website:

GeoZS - Geological Survey of Slovenia, Slovenia

The Geological Survey of Slovenia (GeoZS) is a public research institute (90 employees) established by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia. Scientists, researchers, technicians and project managers, among them 64% with high education, contribute to production of geological maps, assessment of natural and anthropogenic geological hazards to living environments, expertise in fields of groundwater, mineral resources, geothermal energy resources and natural geological heritage. All activities are supported by Geological information Centre, responsible for collection, processing, storage and dissemination of geological data within the framework of a single information system.
Contact: Website:

GEUS, Denmark

GEUS has worked intensively with the development and operation of databases and exchange-formats for geological, geophysical and mineral resources data for more than 25 years. GEUS runs nation-wide databases for boreholes, geochemistry, geophysics, geological samples, digital reports, digital maps and geological models integrated with a large number of web-services for query and update of these data used on-line by local and regional administrations throughout Denmark. GEUS has the long-term responsibility of collecting basic geo-scientific information about natural resources in Greenland and Denmark, as well as the experience in resource assessments and evaluation.
Contact: Website:


RECHARGE is an industry association representing the Advanced Rechargeable and Lithium batteries in Europe. It has a good understanding and knowledge about the Batteries Urban Mine in Europe, based on its members' information. Batteries and WEEE flows are similar in several aspects, particularly at the end of life, where most of the rechargeable portable batteries are collected with the WEEE.
Contact: Website:

SGU - Geological Survey of Sweden, Sweden

The Geological Survey of Sweden (SGU) is the national agency for issues relating to bedrock, soil and groundwater in Sweden. SGU is a governmental body governed by the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation. Information from SGU is used by exploration companies in their search for mineral resources. At present SGU has about 240 employees and an annual turnover that totals 43 M€. SGU is a member of ETP-SMR High Level Group and is represented in operational groups related to the implementation of the actions included in the European Innovation Partnership on Raw Materials. .
Contact: Website:

TUB - Technische Universität Berlin, Germany

The Technische Universität Berlin (TUB) is a public research and education institution with 30,000 students, 6,000 academic staff members and 300 professors. Research activities under the Chair of Circular Economy and Recycling Technologies  include the transition of waste management towards a circular economy for selected product systems. Recycling-oriented characterisation methodologies have been developed and adapted to the need of new recycling systems in particular for strategic raw materials for example for WEEE, batteries, photovoltaic systems. The Research Centre “Forschungsschwerpunkt Technologien der Mikroperipherik” (TMP) at the Technische Universität was responsible for the collection and consolidation of the data on batteries and brought expertise on technologies established and in development.

TU Delft - Technische Universiteit Delft, Netherlands

Technische Universiteit Delft (°1842), is the oldest, largest and most comprehensive university of technology in the Netherlands (ranking 19th in the 2014 QS World University Rankings - Engineering and Technology). TU Delft has a strong research profile with the main focus on engineering and applied sciences. The Valorisation Centre educates engineers and PhD graduates and conducts breakthrough scientific research in the fields of mechanical engineering, maritime engineering and materials science. It undertakes coherent and innovative research dedicated to developing, producing, characterising and manipulating materials, with a focus on metals.
Contact: Website:

UNU - United Nations University, Sustainable Cycles Programme, Germany

UNU is an autonomous organ of the UN General Assembly dedicated to generating and transferring knowledge and strengthening capacities relevant to global issues of human security, development, and welfare. The University operates through a worldwide network of research and training centres and programmes. The Bonn (Germany) based Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Programme hosted by UNU's Vice Rectorate in Europe is providing world-class research and action on e-waste. SCYCLE aims to enable societies to reduce the environmental burden caused by the production, consumption and disposal of ubiquitous goods. SCYLCE is leading in global quantification and qualification of e-waste flows, authoring the 2014 and 2016 Global E-waste Monitors, with more detailed e-waste generated/arising analyses carried out in individual EU Member States, such as e.g. the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, Romania, Ireland and the Czech Republic.

WEEE Forum, Belgium

The WEEE Forum, set up in 2002, is a Brussels-based international not-for-profit association speaking for 34 not-for-profit electrical and electronic equipment waste (WEEE) producer compliance schemes - alternatively referred to as 'producer responsibility organisations' (PRO). The 34 PROs are based in Europe, Australasia and North America: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Greece, France, Iceland, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It is the biggest organisation of its kind in the world. In 2016, its member organisations reported collection and proper de-pollution and recycling of 2,100,000 tonnes of WEEE. Members in 2017: Amb3E, ΑΝΑΚΥΚΛΩΣΗ ΣΥΣΚΕΥΩΝ, ASEKOL, Australia New Zealand Recycling Platform, Ecodom, Eco-systèmes, Ecotic, ECOTIC, EES-Ringlus, EGIO, Electrocyclosis Cyprus, ElektroEko, Elektrowin, El-Kretsen, elretur, Environ, EPRA, Fotokiklosi, Norsirk, Recipo, Recupel, Remedia, RENAS, Repic, Retela, RoRec, SENS e-Recycling, SWICO, UFH, Úrvinnslusjóður, Wecycle, WEEE Ireland, WEEE Malta and Zeos.
Contact: Website:


WRAP have been working in the field of resource efficiency and security for over 12 years with a clear focus on ensuring robust and secure markets for resources and products. In March 2012 Defra and BIS (British Government Departments) published their Resource Security Action Plan which included the delivery by WRAP of two actions: development of material flows diagrams to understand the key materials within electrical and electronic equipment and how they move through the UK economy; and to set up and delivery of trials to recover CRMs (critical raw materials) from WEEE (waste electronic and electrical equipment).

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