ZeroWaste Cluster

The ZeroWaste Cluster is a cooperation of eight different Network of Infrastructures (NoI) which are projects funded by the EIT RawMaterials. A NoI type of project is generally an accelerator aiming at mapping services to provide overview and access to facilities and expert knowledge available within the consortium including pilot plants, technical centres and analytical and modelling infrastructure.

The Zero Waste Cluster is the largest umbrella of NoIs under EIT Raw Materials with almost a third of all Networks. It is the only cluster with an official EIP Committment (European Innovation Partnership), coordinated by VITO:

Link to EIP Committment

R&D and innovation infrastructure in Europe has long suffered from scarce and scattered investments in mining and material processing capacity, whilst criticality and disruption might occur. Only recently, the impetus towards a resource-efficient, circular economy has pinpointed the need for flexible and cost-effective infrastructure to extract value from complex residues and low grade ores. This has sparked the development of innovative, often very specific, equipment and expertise at stakeholders in the field. Unlocking and joining unique expertise scattered over Europe and offering access to the best suited equipment and knowledge available at the European level is the intrinsic value of the ZeroWaste Cluster.

It embraces a flexible toolbox combining physical pre- and post-treatment and separation, solvo-, electro-, bio-, and pyro-metallurgy for the sustainable recovery of valuable materials from complex, low grade ore and waste, together with technologies to valorise the residual matrix materials. At the same time, it aims at boosting innovation in resource recovery and waste recycling through European wide collaboration. This goal will be reached by hiving the infrastructure and skills regarding solids and liquids processing, metallurgy and mineral technology amongst selected consortia of core actors in the field.
This in turn will provide tailored solutions to industrial stakeholders – waste stream owners from the supply side and material resource processors from the demand side – to meet intermediary SMEs and RDIs to bridge gaps between both sides of the value chain.

Another source of critical metals can be delivered by secondary resources that are present in vast amounts, e.g. in metallurgical slags, bottom ashes, fly ashes, industrial by-products such as bauxite residue and goethite, and mining waste. These flows and stocks can provide large amounts of metals and moreover, they concurrently deliver a major stream of minerals from the residues after metal recovery that can be used for added-value construction and other technical materials. Similarly, primary ores are becoming more and more complex and low-grade, requiring processing and refining technologies for better recovery of minerals and metals at increased efficiency in terms of better yield and process selectivity. Hence, an industrially viable, flexible toolbox is needed to recover valuable elements and to valorise the residual matrix from low grade complex polymetallic, primary and secondary resources.

The new Circular Economy package launched by the EC will significantly contribute to the success of the Zero Waste Cluster and its EIP Committment, by establishing clearer rules on industrial by-products and end-of-waste criteria to stimulate the usage of secondary resources by industry and markets for recycled materials.


  • Gather waste stream owners from the supply side and material resource users from the demand side to meet intermediary technology SMEs and RDIs bridging gaps between both sides of the value chain.
  • Provoke industrial innovation, by offering access to key infrastructures and services for the exploitation of complex, low-grade ores and waste streams.
  • Stimulate smart specialisation by the partners by inventorying available infrastructure within the network and Europe to identify gaps to be filled by defining new pilot actions.

The integration of the individual NoIs in the comprehensive ZeroWaste network offers the perspective of a self-sufficient and flexible network, as companies will be able to find tailored solutions to sustain and grow their business. The latter supports the EIP target to raise industry’s contribution to the EU GDP to 20% by 2020.

Description of the activities:

The Cluster embraces a flexible toolbox combining physical pre- and post-treatment and separation, solvo-, electro-, bio-, and pyro metallurgy technologies to recover valuable materials from complex, low grade resources, together with technologies to valorise the residual matrix materials.

The SSIC NoI (Sustainability Support and Information Centre) initiated by Ghent University brings sustainability assessment vigour to the technological solutions provided by the Zero Waste Cluster. Moreover industrial symbiosis matchmaking know-how and tools are brought in by the ERMAT NoI, targeting new business models to link waste or by-products of one company to resource needs in other companies.

Key Enabler/Accelerator:

  • Exploiting EU industrial waste streams by the recovery of technology metals and upcycling of residues.
  • Attract and exploit global selected material streams for added-value conversion.
  • The provision of quality secondary resources to the EU manufacturing and processing sectors.
  • Global export of technology for industrial waste recycling as well as for the mining of primary low grade, complex ores (thereby precluding technology drain by adequate IPR protection).
  • Consequent increased and sustainable job creation in the EU mining, material processing and recycling sectors.