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English Sweeping Company Veolia Environmental Gleaning Precious Metals From Street Sweepings

This article was posted at WorldSweeper in July of 2013 from information first published in the Shropshire Star. Veolia Logo

Veolia Environmental – which currently has contracts to sweep streets in about 40 towns and cities around the U.K. and collects up to 165,000 tons of sweepings a year – believes it can find at least £1 million (US $1.3 million) worth of materials including gold, platinum, palladium and rhodium from the rubbish it sweeps from Britain's streets each year.

Palladium These metals are commonly used in catalytic converters and tiny amounts can be thrown out by car exhaust. The materials then go on to settle on street surfaces.

The company believes it may even find traces of gold and silver in the sweepings, as tiny fragments can rub off clothes, shoes and jewelry.

Until now, street sweepings have been sent straight to landfill or compost sites, but Veolia has now established the country's first plant to extract precious metals from the material, at Ling Hall in Warwickshire. The rubbish will go through a number of processes, including filtration and chemical washes, in order to extract the valuable substances.

Richard Kirkman, Veolia's technical director, said: "We are developing a strategy of mining precious metals from street sweepings. In the past we have always sent our street sweeping to landfill or compost sites. We wanted to find something to do with this material, so we are separating everything out with flotation tanks and mechanical sorting machines.

"We are left with this fine black dust and we have found palladium, rhodium and platinum at levels they are found in the ore when it is mined from the ground."

Platinum The company estimates that annually up to 1.5 tons of platinum could by collected. Platinum is one of the rarest elements in the earth's crust and is highly prized for jewelry and electronic equipment.

The firm also believes it can recover 1.3 tons of palladium, which is also often used in electronics and the jewelry industry.

Veolia now hopes to open up three facilities around the UK to mine Britain's street sweeping and is also looking at other sources of metal, such as waste water.

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