ELV Recycling Steps Up a Gear


More than 10 million tons of automotive waste from end of life vehicles (ELV) are generated yearly in the EU and the values are continuously increasing. ELV wastes are managed by the auto-shredder plants which process ELVs through a series of mechanical and physical operations in order to separate the materials into different streams: ferrous, non-ferrous, heavy non-metal and fluff. Ferrous materials, constituting more than 60wt% (percentage by weight), are sent to steel-making plants, while the non-ferrous (NF) fraction, rich in aluminium and representing slightly less than 10wt%, is processed to separate some alloys.

Copper alloy fragments are usually obtained by hand sorting, heavy media separation and even by color sorting devices. The aluminium rich fraction obtained contains a wide range of Al alloys with different chemical compositions due to the presence of different alloying elements (e.g. Si, Mg, Mn, Cu, Zn). The different concentrations of such metals confer specific properties to each alloy, which are arranged within a standard series classification.
Several Al alloys are difficult to separate due to their similar physical-chemical properties. Some technologies have been proposed to separate them using vision/colour sorting systems, but requiring firstly a surface cleaning and a chemical treatment by etching in baths in order to modify the surface colour of some alloys. However this kind of technology becomes expensive since is highly intensive regarding water, chemicals and energy consumptions and subsequently has not been successfully applied.

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