News Overview

Recovery of Rare Earth Metals From Electronic Waste Through Recycling

Author: Switzerland Innovation Park Innovaare

Electronic waste is one of the largest, growing municipal waste streams in the world. CECO-MET, a project launched by a spin-off company of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), is aimed at achieving strong municipal electronic waste disposal to recover valuable metals. The patented technology is designed to improve recycling, promote responsible consumption, and make towns and cities more sustainable by introducing a circular-economy approach and “urban mining”. CECO-MET is one of six winners of the 2020 Switzerland Innovation Tech4Impact Initiative, a national startup competition.

Awarded 85,000 Swiss Francs for its groundbreaking recycling technology enabling the recovery of rare earth metals from electronic waste, CECO-MET (an abbreviation for Circular ECOnomy in practice by recycling critical METals) is a project led by chemist Dr. Ajay Patil, a PSI Founder Fellow and current scientific collaborator at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne EPFL.

The first edition of the nation-wide “Switzerland Innovation Tech4Impact” start-up competition attracted 98 applications from Switzerland’s cutting-edge research and innovation ecosystem.

The competition was open to Swiss-based research groups, post-docs and PHD students, scientific staff, spin-offs and startups, or SMEs linked to a Swiss University and benefiting from a location at or a strong relationship with one of Switzerland Innovation’s five innovation parks.

Building on years of research at PSI and EPFL, Dr. Ajay Patil’s recycling technology is based on an innovative combination of liquid-liquid extraction and specialized wet chemistry of rare earth metals.

E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world and poses significant disposal problems. The lack of an efficient recycling technology has led to a net loss of critical metals on which European industry is currently highly dependent and the extraction of which is highly polluting.

Dr. Ajay Patil’s aims to use this monetary award to develop a complete pilot system for the recycling of rare earth metals such as neodymium and dysprosium, both of which are highly relevant raw material elements for the clean energy and e-mobility-industry.

"We are very grateful to Switzerland Innovation for supporting our activities to promote recycling management and sustainability in practice,” says Dr. Ajay Patil. “We are very passionate and proud to develop this hardware- and process-based solution for sustainable consumption and for the production of critical raw materials. We recycle the key drivers of our technological and futuristic economy.”

The successful implementation of CECO-MET will lead to the creation of REMRETEch, a company that Park Innovaare is proud to welcome as a member company in the near future.