Industrial processes are inevitably associated with generating fine-grained particulate matter. Such fine-grained residues rarely find re-entry into industrial value chains; typically, they are disposed and become an environmental burden. Prominent examples are dusts from mineral processing, shredder fines, degraded end-of-life fibers, or micro plastic entering the natural environment. The project FINEST will process various residues and minimize hazards by designing high-value products and/or inert residues.

The central research question FINEST tackles is to find a sustainable solution for fine-grained residues from various sources through cleaning, separation, and blending processes. FINEST will generate several types of valuables and inert residues in an economically viable and ecologically benign way.

Previous attempts to use fine-grained particulates in an economically and ecologically sustainable way have, however, typically failed. Important reasons for such failures include (a) a poor understanding of the physicochemical properties of fine-grained materials, (b) the lack of suitable technologies for separation, and (c) the isolated investigation of individual material streams.

The project FINEST will overcome these three fundamental causes for failure by addressing fine-grained particulate anthropogenic materials sustainably. This will provide the foundation required to select smart material blends and to develop innovative technologies. A systemic assessment accompanies these developments from the outset, so that ecologically and economically sound solutions can be identified and economic / ecological benefits quantified.

The project’s relevance for society is high due to its impact on numerous waste streams, and material flows, but also due to an increased resource recovery. Potentially, waste can be minimized through the increased utilization of valuables within the waste. In addition, the recovery of these valuable elements generates a societal benefit as these are kept in a loop contributing to a circular economy. Simultaneously, the reduction of hazardous substances through an elimination or inertisation as a result of the envisaged processing of the waste streams, pays off for the society as the environmental risks are minimized as well.

The proposed research in the FINEST consortium contributes to a more sustainable development, aiming to improve at least the following four Sustainable Development Goals:

  1. Health and Wellbeing (SDG3)
  2. High-quality Education (SDG4)
  3. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (SDG9)
  4. Sustainable consumption and production (SDG12)
Sustainable Development Goal Number 4, which is quality education
Sustainable Development Goal 9, which aims at Industry innovation and infrastructure,
Sustainable Development Goald 12, which means responsible consumption and production