Raw Materials

Recycling and material chain optimisation for End-of-Life products

Welcome to the “Recycling and material chain optimisation for End-of-Life products” thematic category within the GAEA (Green Alternatives for European Autonomy) Open Innovation Program!

The Thematic Category of “Recycling and Material Chain Optimization for End-of-Life Products” addresses a critical and growing need in our approach to sustainable development. This Innovation Area focuses on leveraging technologies and solutions that enable efficient materials supply from secondary sources and effective recycling strategies.

The modern world faces an unprecedented challenge in managing the lifecycle of products, particularly as we reach the end stage of their usability. The traditional linear economy model—take, make, dispose—has led to significant environmental and resource sustainability issues. In response, this thematic category aims to revolutionize the way we view and handle end-of-life products, shifting towards a more circular economy where waste is minimized, and resources are reused or recycled.

The emphasis is on developing and implementing technologies that facilitate the extraction and processing of valuable materials from products that have reached their end of life. This not only includes consumer electronics and plastics but also extends to more complex products like batteries, vehicles, and industrial machinery. The goal is to create optimized material chains where every end-of-life product is viewed as a valuable resource rather than waste.

By focusing on secondary sources for materials, we reduce reliance on virgin Raw Materials, thereby lessening the environmental impact associated with Raw Material extraction and processing. This approach demands innovations in recycling technologies—making them more efficient, cost-effective, and capable of handling a wide range of materials. It also requires a holistic view of product design, encouraging the development of products that are easier to disassemble and recycle.

Through this innovation area, GAEA aims to inspire and support solutions that contribute to a more sustainable future, addressing the entire lifecycle of products. This is not just an environmental imperative but also an economic one, as resource efficiency can lead to new business opportunities and a more resilient supply chain.

This Innovation Area is addressed to:

  • Individuals from Business, Finance, Marketing, Technology, and Engineering academic sectors studying or recently completed their studies (up to four years) in any European University
  • Researchers and/or Ph.D. students in any relevant to the Innovation Areas science fields from any European University

who have or want to develop an innovative idea for Recycling and material chain optimisation for End-of-Life products.

  • Innovating in Complex Material Separation: Developing advanced technologies for separating and recovering materials from complex end-of-life products like electronics, batteries, and solar panels. This involves addressing the challenge of effectively disassembling products and accurately sorting different types of materials for recycling.
  • Enhancing Efficiency in Urban and Landfill Mining: Creating more efficient methods for urban and landfill mining to extract valuable materials from accumulated waste. This includes the challenge of dealing with varied waste compositions and developing processes that are both cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
  • Streamlining Collection and Dismantling Processes: Innovating in the collection, transportation, and dismantling of end-of-life products. This challenge involves creating scalable and cost-effective systems that can handle diverse types of waste, from household e-waste to industrial residues.
  • Upcycling and Value Addition in Recycling: Developing solutions that not only recycle materials but also add value, transforming recycled materials into higher-value products. This challenge focuses on the upcycling aspect of recycling, going beyond basic material recovery.
  • Integrating Circular Economy Principles in Product Design: Encouraging the design of products with their end-of-life stage in mind. This involves the challenge of working with manufacturers to create products that are easier to recycle, repair, or remanufacture, thus supporting the circular economy model.
  • Advanced Separation Technologies for Energy-related Products: Tailoring recycling technologies to efficiently separate materials from complex end-of-life products like batteries, solar panels, and other energy-related devices. This challenge involves not just disassembly but also the precise sorting of materials critical for renewable energy technologies.
  • Specialized Recycling for Solar Panel Components: Developing technologies focused on recycling specific components of solar panels, such as photovoltaic cells, to recover valuable materials like silicon and rare metals.
  • Battery Material Recovery Techniques: Innovating in recovery techniques specifically for end-of-life batteries, aiming to efficiently extract valuable materials like lithium, cobalt, and nickel.
  • Upcycling Collaboration Platform: A platform that connects recyclers, product designers, and manufacturers to transform recycled materials into higher-value products, fostering collaborations that add value through upcycling.
  • Urban Mining Technologies: Developing advanced technologies for urban mining to effectively extract valuable materials from urban waste streams, including e-waste and construction debris.
  • Integrated Waste Management Systems: Creation of scalable and cost-effective systems for the collection, transportation, and dismantling of end-of-life products. These systems would handle various waste types efficiently, ranging from household e-waste to industrial residues, ensuring streamlined recycling processes.
  • AI-Driven Material Sorting Systems: Implementing AI-based sorting systems that accurately identify and separate different types of materials in mixed waste streams for more efficient recycling.
  • Mobile Recycling Units for Remote Areas: Creating portable, small-scale recycling units that can be deployed in remote or underserved areas, facilitating the recycling of materials where traditional facilities are not accessible.
  • Eco-Friendly Dismantling Techniques: Techniques and practices for the safe and energy-efficient dismantling of e-waste and other complex products, ensuring maximum material recovery with minimal environmental impact.
  • Biodegradable Material Disassembly Solutions: Developing solutions for the efficient disassembly and recycling of biodegradable materials, facilitating their return to the natural cycle with minimal environmental impact.
  • Recycling Techniques for Composite Materials: Innovating in recycling methods for composite materials, such as carbon fiber, used in aerospace and automotive industries, to effectively separate and reuse constituent materials.

Categories of submission


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