Boliden contributes toward a more circular economy

As one of the sustainability leaders in the metals and mining ­sector, Boliden clearly has a role to play in meeting the societal need for metals as sustainably as possible.

Boliden has created value from waste for many years. For example, being one of Europe’s largest recyclers of used lead-acid batteries, benefiting from decades-long resource-effective industrial synergies, and continuously finding new methods of creating value from the company’s own waste materials.

How Boliden contributes to the circular economy for metals

Boliden plays a crucial role in enabling the recycling and reuse of society’s waste metals. Several of Boliden’s smelters are specially equipped to process complex waste metals into ‘new metals’ that can then be used to create new components and products.

The circular approach to resource management is particularly well suited to the mining and metals industry as many metals can be recycled repeatedly without losing their properties.

Recovering valuable metals from electronics and industrial waste

Boliden’s Rönnskär smelter in northern Sweden is one of the largest recyclers of scrapped electronic equipment in the world. The smelter annually recycles around 120,000 metric tons of waste material from electrical equipment, including circuit boards from computers and mobile phones. The waste material is sourced primarily from within Europe.

Rönnskär has also processed waste steel mill dust since the 1980s to annually produce around 33,000 metric tons of zinc clinker, which accounts for 10 –15% of Rönnskär’s total production. In total, the smelter produces some 225,000 metric tons of copper, 500 metric tons of silver and 14 metric tons of gold every year.

Recycling car batteries at Bergsöe

Boliden’s Bergsöe smelter in southern Sweden has been recycling used lead-acid car batteries since 1942, and currently recovers lead from 4 million batteries each year. The recycled lead is mainly sold to European battery manufacturers where it is used to produce both industrial and automotive batteries.

2020 was the first full year of operation for Boliden’s separation plant at Bergsöe to recycle plastic battery casing that is sold to industrial customers. The investment avoids annual emissions of around 10,000 metric tons CO₂ and has improved both safety and quality at Bergsöe.

Secondary feed material recycling at Odda

Around 20–25% of the Boliden’s Odda smelter’s total zinc production is produced from secondary sources.

Boliden Odda also recycles Waelz Oxide filter powder, which is a residual material from the scrap steel recycling industry, to produce 15,000 to 20,000 metric tons of zinc each year. Waelz Oxide can have serious negative impacts on the environment if not properly processed.