A new report on global e-waste — discarded products with a battery or plug — shows a staggering 44.7 million metric tonnes (Mt) generated in 2016 — up 3.3 Mt or 8% from 2014.Read more
E-waste (electronic waste) recycling
With the increasing use of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), the amount of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) that is generated globally is equally growing. E-waste is the most rapidly growing waste problem in the world.
E-waste (or electronics waste) refers to obsolete electronic products or electrical devices that are discarded, and have reached the end of their useful life. The full name for e-waste is Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).
Table of content:
What is electronics waste recycling?
E-waste recycling (or electronics waste recycling) is the process of recovering useful materials, for example, plastics, glass, copper and iron, from obsolete devices to use in new products. This reduces the need for new production.
Most electronics contain some form of harmful materials such as cadmium, beryllium, mercury and lead. In the responsible e-waste recycling process, these harmful substances for human health and environment are safely removed.
Electronic waste management
The keys to success in electronic waste management are:
- Develop eco-design devices where possible
- Properly collect electronic waste
- Recover and recycle by safe methods
- Dispose of e-waste by suitable techniques
- Forbid the transfer of used electronic devices to developing countries
- Raise awareness of the impact of e-waste
No single tool is adequate but together they can complement each other to solve this issue.
A national scheme such as an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a good policy in solving the growing e-waste problem.
In recent years, a revolution has taken place in the world of electronic waste. Both manufacturers and importers of electrical and electronic equipment now see it as their responsibility to collect and recycle these products at their end-of-life.
How to recycle electronic waste
The best guide to how to recycle electronics is to start by finding a certified e-waste recycler.
Industry certification programs have set requirements for safer disposal and recycling of electronic waste. These programs include guidelines that define effective and responsible e-waste management:
- The R2:2013 Standard - The latest version of R2, the electronics recycling industry's leading certification
- The Recycling Industry Operating Standard™ (RIOS™) – The recycling industry’s management system standard for quality, environment and health & safety (QEH&S)
- The e-Stewards initiative - A global team of individuals, institutions, businesses, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies upholding a safe, ethical, and globally responsible standard for e-waste recycling and refurbishment.
The e-waste recycling process
E-waste recycling is challenging because discarded electronics devices are advanced devices manufactured from varying proportions of plastics, metals, and glass.
The specific recycling process varies depending upon materials being recycled by e-waste recyclers and the technologies that are employed.
Collection and Transportation: Collection and transportation are two of the initial stages of the e-waste recycling process.
Shredding, Sorting, and Separation: After collection and transportation to the e-waste recycling facility, materials in the e-waste stream must be processed and separated. The process of recycling begins with manual dismantling the device. After this step, a combination of crushers, shredders, density separators, and X-ray sorting technologies are used to sort e-waste into its major recyclable streams including plastics, glass, printed circuit boards, ferrous and non-ferrous metals.
Recycling/Recovery of valuable material - The raw material that remains, such as glass, copper, plastics and metals, can be put to good use for the production of new electronics or other products.
Treatment and disposal of dangerous materials and wastes - The remaining toxic part includes mercury, lead and arsenic which need to be disposed of in a responsible manner for these are lethal substances that could contaminate the soil and groundwater to disastrous consequence.
Challenges for the electronics recycling industry and e-waste recycling centers
- Exports to developing nations – The illegal export of e-waste to countries with lower environmental standards is a major concern.
- Less valuable materials - Although the volume of e-waste is increasing rapidly, the quality of e-waste is decreasing. Currently, it’s a case of increasing disassembly challenges combined with decreasing incentives.
- Controlling chemical exposures - Even in the high-tech formal e-waste recycling centers, challenges still remain in assessing and controlling chemical exposures regularly found in this industry.
- Most E-waste goes to landfills and incinerators - More e-waste ends up in our landfills and incinerators than is being recycled, although recycling numbers continue to rise.
- Re-use - Re-use should be viewed as being reactionary to the current trend of devices being disposed of much earlier than necessary and is about the optimization of the use phase of devices.
Articles about E-Waste Recycling
LANGLEY – Whether you call it E-waste, E-scrap or WEEE, pyrolysis can be used to help turn printed circuit boards into cash quickly and effectively. Sepro has been working closely with E-waste pyrolysis specialists to develop complete, turn-key processes for the recovery of precious and heavy metals from E-Waste. We’re now very excited to be sharing some process details with the public. Our first installment today focuses on the pyrolysis step of the process.Read more