January 14, 2021: Belgian recycling firm Campine said on January 11 it was expanding its activities with a process to extract antimony from older lead batteries which have far greater amounts of the element than more modern batteries.
The antimony extracted is then transformed into trioxide, which is used as an ingredient in fire retardant paints, plastics and other materials.
“This innovation is almost exclusive to Campine, as we are the only company in Europe and by extension in the world, that combines the recycling of lead-acid batteries and the manufacturing of antimony trioxide,” said Hilde Goovaerts, head of metallurgical technology at Campine.
CEO Wim De Vos said the antimony trioxide grade ‘ReGen’ that the company introduced in 2018 immediately sold out — but Campine’s new process means it can be produced on an industrial scale for customers who can complement the recycled polymers they already use with recycled additives.
“On top of this, it makes Campine — and to some extent Europe — less dependent on the dominant Chinese imports of antimony metal,” he said. “Campine wants to provide at least 20% of its antimony metal demand through this type of recovery from regional waste streams. The new process to recycle antimony is already in its start-up phase.”
Alongside its antimony recycling, Campine has also been expanding its extraction of other metals such as tin, silver and gold from industrial waste streams.
In May 2018, the company announced its intention to invest up to €25 million ($30 million) in recycling projects, with the largest single amount going into recycling the plastic housing of batteries.
“With China closing its borders for plastic waste, we see growing opportunities to recycle even more plastics in Europe,” De Vos said at the time.