- What types of waste electronics can the ATI process treat?
- In principle any mix of waste electronics, from laptop computers to toasters, is possible. Most economic value is recovered from circuit boards, so waste with a high content of circuit boards is desirable.
- Do you need to pre-sort the waste?
- One of the big advantages of the ATI process is that it does not rely on pre-sorting or disassembly, saving greatly on labor cost. This makes it competitive with processing overseas.
- Exactly what feed preparation for the process?
- Materials need to be size reduced before the ATI process. A full-size operation needs parts not to exceed 4 inches in any dimensions, a size easily achieved by commercially available shredders.
- How does the ATI process work?
- The process is based on vacuum cracking of the polymer constituents. This method ensures that organic compounds are broken down into smaller molecules but not gasified. This allows the condensation of the majority of the organic fraction as fuel oil, generating a valuable product and greatly reducing the amount of off-gas treatment needed.
- How is that different from pyrolysis?
- Pyrolysis breaks down the organic material in the smallest possible units, leading to an all-gaseous product. Not only has this product low commercial value, it requires a large off-gas treatment effort. The cost for the off-gas treatment in pyrolysis can exceed the cost for the pyrolysis itself.
- What kind of solid products does the ATI process generate?
The solid product stream is dominated by a metals and a sand fraction. Common metals like steel and aluminum from housings, brackets, screws etc are removed by standard metal recovery techniques like magnetic and eddy current separation.
Precious metals are located in the sand fraction — there is no char in the traditional sense because nearly all carbon is volatilized. The majority of the sand fraction is due to glass fiber content of circuit boards and fillers in the polymers and paints. The exact percentage of precious metals in the sand is dependent upon the feedstock.
All metals in the waste stream can be processed through the unit, however. Advantages of running all metals include: no pre-separation to reduce costly labor steps, removal of organic contaminants (i.e., plastics, paints, etc.) from the metal and up to 100% recovery of available metals.
- Exactly what products are ultimately made?
Carbon fiber, glass, ceramics, fillers, etc. typically wind up in the sand fraction with the precious metals. Precious metals can be recovered via electrowinning, leaching, or another common means of metals. Precious metals can be recovered via electrowinning, leaching, or another common means of metal refinement. The remainder of the sand is typically not separated further as it does not contain any valuable products. This is the only waste generated in the process.
Larger metal fractions are recovered as bulk pieces that can be separated and/or treated using conventional refinement/reprocessing including magnetic separators and eddy current technologies. Main marketable products include steel, aluminum, and copper scrap.
Organics (hydrocarbons) are recovered by condensing as liquids, which can then be used directly as a fuel source or further refined. A significant reduction in gaseous emissions results from this process.
- What is the scale of ATI’s pilot plant?
- Our current pilot plant is capable of processing 25-50 lb/hr (12-25 kg/hr); rate is somewhat dependent upon the nature of the feedstock, especially density.
- Opportunity and cost of pilot plant trials?
- For parties with a verifiable interest, be it current or future waste processors or investors in eco-friendly technologies, a technology demonstration can be arranged for a nominal fee. Please contact us for further information.
- You have had an e-waste pilot plant operating for 15 years — why has it not moved to full scale during that time?
- The investment required to move the technology along as a comprehensive process is too large for a small business to accommodate. Marketing initially was aimed at individual investors for stand-alone operation. Incorporation as a complementary part of a larger scale metal recovery operation may be a more favorable means of moving the technology forward.
- What business model do you pursue?
ATI is a research and development company, not a waste processor. As such we are looking for partners who are interested in operating a facility, adding the capability to treat e-waste to an existing facility, or want to own an independent operation.
ATI will sell or license the technology, consult on building and operating a facility, and provide research support for the treatment of new wastestreams.
- Do you have ready-to-go plans in the drawers?
- No, this is not a one-size-fits-all operation. Facilities will have to be designed for operational requirements like the quantity and type of waste, local resources, and local regulatory requirements. While we have designs available, engineering will have to be done by licensed firms familiar with the locality and its requirements.
- Do you have any sort of business model showing more detail of potential revenues and costs on an e-waste plant?
ATI has a multi-input, multi-output model, originally developed for a US government recycling process development program. The model includes estimated capital for a complete stand-alone site. The model can be adjusted for any feedstock volume, but the specific capital numbers are inputs rather than calculations for a given volume. The model includes all equipment, site costs, plant engineering design, and licensing fee to ATI. The model also includes ongoing operational and people costs, as well as the cost of capital.
The model includes feedstock materials as a percent of the overall fraction, output percentages based on actual test results, input materials pricing (e.g. price of gold), as well as what market price percent is estimated to be obtainable for the recovered materials.
As the ATI process also recycles plastics, there are similar input and output values for the plastics, including whether the recovered materials have process energy and/or commercial value.
Model output is available to interested parties on request.
- Can you give me at least a rough idea what a facility would cost?
- A 100/ton a day standalone facility would require a $15 Million investment. Co-located plants start at about $5 Million.