High-quality recycling made possible by automatic separation of refractory material

Refractory materials are invaluable for production processes using high temperatures. Yet, their usage also produces refractory waste. With the European FP7 project REFRASORT, VITO aims to create a smart sorting technique that allows that waste to be reused.

Recycling refractory waste is still in an early development stage. Only 5 percent of this waste stream is reused to produce new refractory materials. The other 95 percent ends up on a garbage dump or – best case scenario – gets used for road construction (as a replacement for gravel in concrete). This lack of recycled production materials means that the European industry currently strongly depends on primary resources. The pressure to decrease the amount of refractory waste and close the cycle is mounting: raw materials are becoming scarce, prices are increasing and environmental laws are becoming stricter.

If we want to recycle and reuse refractory materials in a way that ensures quality, efficient separation based on chemical composition and effective removal of impurities is necessary. Through REFRASORT (Refractory Sorting and Recycling) and along with industrial partners and research centres, VITO aims to develop an innovative sorting technique. This technique is non-destructive and aims to increase the purity of refractory waste streams, in order to reuse up to 20 percent of the refractory waste when producing new refractory materials.
 

VITO's role in the project

As project coordinator for REFRASORT, VITO is responsible for the general project follow-up and communication with the European Commission. VITO is also involved in characterising the material, and offers support for developing the integrated process.

REFRASORT: facts & figures
  • Partner project between seven partners in three countries
  • Duration: November 2013 - October 2016
  • Budget: €2,380,000, of which the European Commission is contributing €1,750,000.
     
The pressure to decrease the amount of refractory waste and close the cycle is mounting: raw materials are becoming scarce, prices are increasing and environmental laws are becoming stricter.