NQR, a fully owned subsidiary of REMONDIS Industrie Service, specialises in treating materials that contain mercury. Having successfully introduced ‘PLOM B’ in the autumn of 2013 – a new service for collecting small volumes of amalgam waste from dental surgeries – NQR further expanded its business in September 2014 when it took over a new branch in the German city of Dorsten. Previously owned by DELA, the premises are situated on the northern edge of the Ruhr region and have excellent connections to Europe’s close-knit network of roads.
Mercury – also known as quicksilver – is a remarkable substance. It is the only metal that is liquid at standard room temperature and pressure. As mercury has such high surface tension, it does not wet the non-reactive surface it is on but instead forms a shape like a lens (due to its strong cohesive forces). It conducts electricity like any other metal although only at a low rate. It is precisely these unusual properties that has made mercury such an interesting substance for manufacturing products over the years. Unfortunately, mercury is also toxic which is why some industrial businesses are now substituting it with other substances. However, mercury is still being used in many applications which opens up the question of how to recover and recycle it. Once again, REMONDIS has some good news here.
NQR’s facility in Dorsten transforms mercury into cinnabar – as it is found in nature
NQR’s branch in Dorsten processes industrial waste containing mercury for its customers and suppliers who come from a whole range of different sectors and from all around the world. One of the central pillars of this recycling work is the facility’s rotary distillation unit with its afterburner and flue gas cleaning system. This plant processes activated carbon, button cell batteries, contaminated earth and filter media from the crude oil and natural gas industry, chlorine producers as well as from the chemicals industry. Moreover, NQR is able to process industrial sludge containing mercury in its vacuum dryer.
One special feature of this new plant in Dorsten is its vacuum mixer to produce mercury sulphide (cinnabar) which immobilises metallic mercury using a unique stabilisation process – an environmentally sound method of disposing of this substance. In nature, mercury is primarily found as cinnabar (HgS) in regions that had previously experienced volcanic activity. It is stable and non-reactive in this form which means it cannot impact negatively on the environment. Is there, therefore, a more obvious solution than to transform recycled mercury, which is no longer needed as a raw material, into this state and copy nature?
Mercury was discovered back in ancient times. NQR’s state-of-the-art mercury recycling systems are a more recent development.
Mercury (Hg) can be turned into mercury sulphide (HgS) by creating a controlled reaction between metallic mercury and sulphur in the temperature-controlled and sealed vacuum mixer. This novel patented process is, therefore, able to transform mercury, a hazardous substance for both humans and the environment, into the comparatively safe mercury sulphide which can then be sent to landfill at no risk. This is no more and no less than the naturally occurring substance, cinnabar, from which the mercury was originally extracted. NQR’s vacuum mixer in Dorsten could, therefore, be described as an environmentally friendly way of returning mercury back to nature.
However, pure mercury is still needed for production processes. The company’s ultra-pure distillation system is able to treat liquid mercury from a variety of processes to produce mercury with purity levels of up to 99.999999 percent which can then be returned to production cycles.
Even if mercury is being used less and less to produce consumer goods, many industries still need this material.
And the Dorsten branch continues to expand under the management of REMONDIS’ subsidiary, NQR, and is now also home to NQR’s third battery sorting facility. Every year, up to 6,000 tonnes of mixed batteries can be sorted into individual fractions so they can then be sent on to the company’s own battery recycling facility. NQR is, therefore, closing a number of different material life cycles here helping to protect society and the environment – and working for the future.