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Bioleaching for resource recovery from low-grade wastes like fly and bottom ashes from municipal incinerators: A SWOT analysis

Gomes, Helena I., Funari, Valerio, Ferrari, Rebecca
The Science of the total environment 2020 v.715 pp. 136945
bioleaching, biotechnology, circular economy, engineering, fly ash, incinerators, metals, municipal solid waste, stakeholders, sustainable technology, thermophilic microorganisms, waste incineration
Bioleaching (or microbial leaching) is a biohydrometallurgical technology that can be applied for metal recovery from anthropogenic waste streams. In particular, fly ashes and bottom ashes of municipal solid waste incineration (MSWI) can be used as a target material for biomining. Globally, approximately 46 million tonnes of MSWI ashes are produced annually. Currently landfilled or used as aggregate, these contain large amounts of marketable metals, equivalent to low-grade ores. There is opportunity to recover critical materials as the circular economy demands, using mesophile, moderately thermophile, and extremophile microorganisms for bioleaching. A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis was developed to assess the potential of this biotechnology to recover critical metals from MSWI wastes. Bioleaching has potential as a sustainable technology for resource recovery and enhanced waste management. However, stakeholders can only reap the full benefits of bioleaching by addressing both the technical engineering challenges and regulatory requirements needed to realise and integrated approach to resource use.