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Turning Industrial Residues into Resources: An Environmental Impact Assessment of Goethite Valorization

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

© 2018 THE AUTHORS Goethite is a metals-rich residue that occurs during zinc production. The feasibility of metal recovery from goethite has been demonstrated, but is not economically viable on an industrial scale. Therefore, goethite is landfilled with considerable economic costs and environmental risks. The goal of this study is to evaluate the environmental performance of a new valorization strategy for goethite residues from zinc production, with the aims of: ① recovering the valuable zinc contained in the goethite and ② avoiding the landfilling of goethite by producing a clean byproduct. The presented goethite valorization strategy consists of a sequence of two processes: ① plasma fuming and ② inorganic polymerization of the fumed slag. Plasma fuming recovers the valuable metals by fuming the goethite. The metals-free fumed slag undergoes a process of inorganic polymerization to form inorganic polymers, that can be used as a novel building material, as an alternative to ordinary Portland cement (OPC)-based concrete. Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is used to compare the environmental performance of the inorganic polymer with the environmental performances of equivalent OPC-based concrete. The LCA results show the tradeoff between the environmental burdens of the fuming process and inorganic polymerization versus the environmental benefits of metal recovery, OPC concrete substitution, and the avoidance of goethite landfilling. The goethite-based inorganic polymers production shows better performances in several environmental impact categories, thanks to the avoided landfilling of goethite. However, in other environmental impact categories, such as global warming, the goethite valorization is strongly affected by the high-energy requirements of the plasma-fuming process, which represent the environmental hotspots of the proposed goethite recycling scheme. The key elements toward the sustainability of goethite valorization have been identified, and include the use of a clean electric mix, more effective control of the fumed gas emissions, and a reduced use of fumed slag through increased efficiency of the inorganic polymerization process.
Journal: Engineering
ISSN: 2095-8099
Issue: 3
Volume: 4
Pages: 421 - 429
Number of pages: 9
Publication year:2018