Tests being carried out on Teesside could be the key to a $1trillion breakthrough in the metals industry.

The tests are being carried out at the Centre for Process Innovation in Darlington for DEScycle, which is planning a huge plant at Gateshead to develop a new class of chemistry, Deep Eutectic Solvents - eco-friendly liquid salts used to separate target metals at low-temperatures.

Ten per cent of global energy consumption is currently being used for metal production and by 2030 global e-waste generation will exceed $82 billion. Currently up to 80% of e-waste is not recycled properly due to lack of economic incentivisation at local scale.

The Northern Echo: Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen visits DEScycleTees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen visits DEScycle (Image: press release)

DEScycle is using the technology to cleanly and efficiently recycle metals such as gold and copper from electronic waste, the world's fastest growing waste stream worth around £50bn a year.

These valuable and critical metals can be re-circulated back to manufacturers to be used to build new technology, with significantly less impact on the environment and more than 99% metal recovery rates.

DEScycle is also working with one of the world’s largest mining companies to apply its technology to mine deposits of nickel, copper and cobalt.

The technology is fully owned and patented by DEScycle and currently being tested and developed at the CPI. The next major milestone will be the construction of a large-scale pilot plant in the North East this year. The company can then start construction of its first commercial recycling plant, with its partner GAP Group, which will be located in Gateshead.

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Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said on a visit last week: “With the world producing more and more electronic materials there’s a growing market for the recycling and recovery of critical metals through pioneering new technology, and it’s fantastic to see another world-first project coming to our region to make it happen.

"The work that DEScycle are doing to progress the potential for sustainable large-scale metals recovery and recycling is great to see and underlines our region’s position as the best place to establish innovative projects that will lead the world.”

Leo Howden, DEScycle Managing Director added: “Mayor Houchen has become renowned for championing small businesses with innovative and disruptive technology. We were delighted to welcome him to CPI’s premises near Darlington, and walk him through our first of its kind process for recycling metals from e-waste.

"We look forward to working in the North East, and in particular to the construction of our large-scale pilot plant as well as our first commercial recycling plant with our 50/50 JV partner GAP Group. Our team, alongside CPI are excited to further expand the area's energy transition credentials as well as provide job opportunities for the construction phase of our plants and looking ahead to the operating phase and beyond.”