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#DigitalDialogue with Dr Filipe Costa from Cronimet Envirotec

Based in Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Cronimet Envirotec offers innovative recycling of industrial waste and has won multiple awards on innovation and sustainability. We had an interview with Filipe to get a better understanding of green scrap.


What is your background Filipe? What brought you to the metals industry?

I studied chemistry at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern (Master of Science and PhD) and Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Stellenbosch Business School. After my studies, I started working at Carbon Clean Tech as R&D and Product Manager and later as R&D Director. 

The challenge of implementing a new technology in metals recycling while building a completely new company was very compelling. It was also a logical step for me as green chemistry and sustainable processes have always been a part of my life. In the meantime metal recycling has become a great passion of mine.

What does Cronimet Envirotec do? Which products do you buy, which products do you sell?

CRONIMET Envirotec GmbH offers a sustainable recycling solution for metal-containing waste sludge, filter dusts, filter cakes, metal powders, mill scale and comparable industrial waste. 

The materials are processed in two unique plants based in Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Germany. Our vacuum distillation enables a complete drying and de-oiling of metal sludges affording a dry metal powder. The powder is then compacted into high-quality briquets which can be melted down similar to scrap due to their physical properties and our organic binder.

After processing the recovered materials can be returned to the material cycle as raw metal or alloy, e.g. for foundries or steel mills. The liquids are reintroduced as recycled cooling fluids. 

Currently, we buy waste and by-products from metal processing and metal producing companies. Our main suppliers are part of the ferrous metals industry and produce or work with stainless steel products. 

Our product portfolio includes Stainless Steel briquets, Stainless Steel powder, HSS briquets and tungsten powders. In all of these markets we are also able to offer either a toll treatment of materials or a purchasing or disposal service for our customers.  In addition we have developed solutions for the Cu and Zn markets and are looking at further expanding our portfolio.

Which potential do you see in increasing the recycling-rate in the ferrous metals industry? Do you see ways that technology can unlock new scrap-sources? 

The current recycling rate within the ferrous metals industry is already quite high at 70-80%, however there is still room for improvement. To unlock further streams, we need to work together with the ferrous metal industry in order to make their current by-products and hazardous waste streams reusable in their process. I think our technology presents a good example on how recycling solutions can be developed which help to recycle even more production waste. We are still at the beginning but we could increase the activities and the success rate through long term cooperations between us and the industry players. We must not forget that stricter environmental regulations are being drafted and the landfill shortage will increase the pressure within the market. 

There have been discussions around green scrap. What is CO2-footprint of scrap, how does its usage compare to the primary route and what levers do you see in decreasing its footprint? 

According to research by the Fraunhofer Institute the steel industry saves 4.3 tons of CO2 by using one ton of recycled stainless steel scrap in stainless steel production. By recycling non-ferrous metals Germany is producing around 8 million tons less CO2 per year. That’s the reason why recycling is also called the key to lower CO2 emissions. These figures illustrate that the use of recycled steel helps to protect our environment and increase sustainability.

The use of hydrogen as an energy source or reduction agent in steel mills is a very interesting innovation. This would significantly reduce CO2 emissions and help reduce the melt loss of secondary materials while enhancing the yield of each melt.  

There are some interesting approaches in the market to reduce the CO2 footprint of primary materials. On the one hand, there are a few companies already using modern sorting technology  to explore old mining tailings and CRONIMET currently has two such projects running. On the other hand transportation is one of the main emitters, the use of fuel cell trucks or rail will contribute to a significant reduction.  

Where do you see that tech companies and tech start-ups can drive this development? 

We believe that technological and digital innovations will drive this development. On the technological side, there is a lot of potential in the emission free production of green hydrogen. In this case several start-up companies are already testing and implementing their ideas successfully. Other approaches to more efficient resource recycling are also interesting and currently being tested. Here we see more and more interesting recycling and production technologies for battery materials which help reduce the overall footprint of EV’s. On the digital side we have the utilization of blockchain technology to track scrap materials allowing companies to optimize their overall material flow while reducing their CO2 footprint. Additionally, Companies such as Metalshub enable a fully digitized and paperless procurement and may thus increase sustainability within the industry further

Overall this is a very exciting time to be in the metals recycling field. We are looking forward to contributing to a greener ferrous metals industry. 

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