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Purified Metal Company brings another world-first for the circular economy to the TopDutch region

Steel. It’s everywhere – from our fridges to our factories, from our ships to our surgical scalpels. Normally, it can also be recycled and re-used over and over without losing its properties. But that’s not always the case. Steel can become contaminated with things such as asbestos, and then there’s no safe choice but to dump it in the landfill. Well, there wasn’t, until now. TopDutch-based Purified Metal Company is the first company in the world with an environmentally friendly and economically viable method of recycling contaminated steel scrap into a high-grade raw material for the steel industry. And last week they opened their innovative new plant, with a little help from special guest King Willem-Alexander.

Last week the Dutch King Willem-Alexander made a trip to the TopDutch region, when he opened Purified Metal Company’s brand-new recycling plant in Delfzijl. It was a momentous occasion for all, as this is the first recycling plant in the world that can process polluted steel into ‘Purified Metal Blocks’, in a sustainable, clean and economically viable way. These blocks will go on to have a new lease of life as a sustainable raw material for the steel industry.

From toxic waste to premium raw materials

Contaminated steel – for example, steel demolition objects with asbestos, chromium-6 or other organic contaminants -  is found all across the world, and in a worryingly plentiful scale. Think: Industrial installations, drilling platforms, railways wagons with asbestos etc. Instead of wasting such an important raw material by throwing it in a landfill, PMC have spent years developing a special process, and now building a plant, in order to process such materials safely for both humans and the environment. It involves thermically heating the steel in a 1550°c hot heal. At such high temperatures, the asbestos is destroyed, Chronium-6 is captured in the flue, and organic compounds are burnt.

His Majesty King Willem-Alexander in Delfzijl

Saying ‘enough is enough’ to landfills

The new internationally patented solution that PMC offers saves 1 ton of CO2 per ton of steel produced, compared to that of steel produced from iron ore. And it’s coming at a prime time, because the Dutch government have recently published a ban on dumping asbestos-contaminated steel in landfills. The waste-to-product firm Renewi, that also have subsidiaries in the TopDutch region, act as the logistics partner in the collection of the contaminated scrap, and transport it to the new plant in Delfzijl.

In our country, we don’t want to think 'deal with it – landfill is the only possible final destination'

Stientje van Veldhoven, Minister for Environment and Housing

The Dutch Minister for Environment and Housing, Stientje van Veldhoven, was also present at the opening. She is proud that the Netherlands, from the TopDutch region, can make a global contribution to the circular economy and better recycling of steel. She stated ‘So far, landfill has been the only safe destination for steel contaminated with asbestos. With the arrival of Purified Metal Company, this hazardous waste can now be disposed of and recycled in a safe and environmentally friendly way. In our country, we don’t want to think “deal with it – landfill is the only possible final destination for contaminated steel” – instead we’re going to ban that completely now.’

Becoming part of the TopDutch region

The selection of Delfzijl as the location for this important new technology was meticulous. Various locations across the country were scouted, and during the process of selection many different regions and authorities were met with. However, the TopDutch region came up on top, as a location with an established background in green and circular industrial processes.

PMC is currently employing 30 people, when the factory is at full capacity. In addition, 35 more jobs will be created. Along with the construction of the factory is a €70 million investment, with the expectation that the company will be profitable by mid-2021. The ambition is to take PMC from the TopDutch region to the rest of the globe, and build several of these plants worldwide.

CEO of Purified Metal Company, Jan Henk Wijma, is particularly proud of this milestone. He said ‘the arrival of the King in Delfzijl to personally open our factory is a tremendous honor for everyone involved in the construction and the start-up of PMC. We’re now working hard to make our sustainable processing of polluted steel into an operational and commercial success. The whole team, like myself, is looking with a great deal of confidence to the future’.

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