LIFE17 ENV/ES/000216

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Contact details:

Contact person: Aitor Treviño
Tel: 34945466130
Email: jbarrenetxea@fundacioninatec.es

Project description:


Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is one the fastest growing waste streams in the EU (3-5% per year) and is expected to reach more than 12 million tonnes per year by 2020.

WEEE is made up of complex mixture of materials, including potentially toxic substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium and beryllium. These pose considerable environmental and health risks if not treated properly. Rare, precious and expensive metals are also used to make electronic goods, for example, 10% of the world's gold. For the EU, which accounts for less than 1% of global gold output, this means depending on imports.

Collection, treatment and recycling of WEEE is essential to improve environmental management, enhance resource efficiency by making more secondary raw materials available, and contribute to the development of a circular economy.


LIFE BIOTAWEE will pilot a new technology for recovering gold, silver, copper and platimum from printed circuit boards found in electrical and electronic waste. These valuable metals are currently incinerated because they cannot be recovered from the non-metallic fractions of the circuit boards.

The two-stage 'bioleaching' process will combine aerobic and anaerobic treatment and produce methane which can be used as a source of power. The new solution is expected to reduce energy consumption and processing costs in comparison with other treatment processes (pyrometallurgy, hydrometallurgy, one-step bioleaching). It will also make use of available waste from other industries (food and animal feed) as an additional nutrient-booster for microorganisms.

The project will also evaluate the whether two-stage bioleaching can be used to cost-effectively process other waste streams with a high plastic content (such as batteries and end-of-life vehicles). Results will be communicated to relevant stakeholders across Europe.

LIFE BIOTAWEE will contribute to the implementation of the EU Regulation on copper scrap end of waste, The Waste Incineration Directive and the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive.

Expected results:

  • Demonstration of a two-step bioleaching process for recovering valuable metals from the non-metallic fractions of printed circuit boards, while producing enough methane to reduce electricity consumption by 1 035 Kwh per year;
  • A 50% reduction in metal recovery costs compared with hydrometallurgical processes and 35-40% compared with one-step bioleaching;
  • An 8% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and 1% reduction in hazardous waste generated compared with hydrometallurgical processes; and
  • 75-100% of metal recovered, including a fourfold increasing in the amount of gold recovered.



Environmental issues addressed:


Waste - Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)


emission reduction‚  raw material consumption‚  electrical industry‚  hazardous waste‚  electronic material‚  resource conservation

Target EU Legislation

  • Waste
  • Directive 2012/19 - Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) (04.07.2012)
  • Industry and Product Policy
  • COM(2001)68 - "Final Green Paper on Integrated Product Policy (IPP)” (07.02.2001)
  • Waste
  • Directive 2000/76 - Incineration of waste (04.12.2000)

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Type of organisation Large enterprise
Description REYDESA RECYCLING is one of eight companies in the Otua Group, a combine that focuses on metal recycling, distribution and research. REYDESA is capable of treating a wide range of solid waste at its 70 000 square metre plant in the Basque country. It specialises in the recovery of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, in particular copper.
Partners BIOTATEC LTD, Estonia


Project reference LIFE17 ENV/ES/000216
Duration 01-JUL-2018 to 31-DEC -2020
Total budget 932,377.00 €
EU contribution 544,426.00 €
Project location País Vasco(España)


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