The fundamental limits of recycling : from minerals processing to computer aided design of automobiles and other consumer goods
My applied engineering research and industrial application work of the past 20 years is presented in this dissertation. It is the conjecture of my work that only if thorough first principles knowledge of the depth of process metallurgy and recycling is available, can meaningful first principles environmental models be developed. These models can then evaluate technology, provide well argued and first principles environmental information to our tax paying consumer society as well as to legislators and environmentalists. Only through this path can one estimate the limits of recycling and its technology, hence evaluate the true boundaries of sustainability. My work with students has presently culminated in the detailed modelling and simulation of recycling systems for post-consumer goods. Notably the models are finding an application in the prediction of legally required recycling rates for automobiles. The models provide first principles arguments for less stringent EU recycling legislation and the integration of the first principles models in computer aided design tools of the automotive industry as part of a large EU 6th Framework (project managed by Volkswagen and the other European car producers). Presently these models are also being converted to model the Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) as well as water recycling systems respectively, both for industry in The Netherlands. This unique rigorous integration of systems engineering, reactor technology and process control theory is the basis of all my work to describe recycling systems as dynamic feedback control loops. My large body of acquired industrial knowledge renders these models practical and can hence be used by the automotive and recycling industries. The origins of this work may be found in the various cited publications and reports to industry by myself (due to my close association with industry as well as industrial experience) over the past 20 years as well as the work of my students, covering topics such as: • system optimization models for flotation, mineral beneficiation and recycling systems and applying these for design for recycling and argue for better/improved first-principles based legislation, • industrial measurement, modelling and simulation of industrial extractive process pyrometallurgical reactors as well waste incinerators and recycling plants, • various activities in other areas such as hydrometallurgy, clean and new breakthrough technology, and • process control of industrial metallurgical reactors by among others the application of artificial intelligence techniques. All the ideas of the last years have been worked out with students and have been summarized in our book: “The Metrics of Material and Metal Ecology, Harmonizing the resource, technology and environmental cycles”.