Improving the Recovery of E-Waste

Now more than ever, it’s important for the world to embrace healthy recycling practices and pass stronger policies to control the growing impact of electrical and electronic equipment on our health and on the environment. In the 2017 Global E-waste Monitor, the United Nations University found that the world produced a total of 44.7 Mt of e-waste.

E-waste Management Policies

In the Americas, the U.S. came out as the top generator of electronic waste in 2016. Compared to the rest of the world, the country has state and provincial laws for the management of e-waste.  However, there is still a need for a national legislation to prevent improper disposal and treatment of electronic waste and to limit its adverse effects on the environment.

Asia was the leading producer of electronic waste in that same year, generating 40.7% of the world’s e-waste, and recycling only 20% of what they produced.  Certain regions in this vast continent are showing increasing interest in possible solutions for this pressing problem; however, there’s still so much that needs to be done as some regions see zero collection rates.

Europe came second to Asia. Unlike the rest of the world, the European Union has implemented some of the most effective e-waste management practices today. Some countries in Northern Europe even have the highest collection rates in the world, nearly half of what they generate. It certainly helps that their e-waste management is regulated consistently by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, which was put into effect in 2003.

Apart from strengthening recycling programs, these policies can further improve recovery processes of recyclable materials. This way, we can produce new products from used materials. We reduce e-waste, and consequently, the environmental risks attached to it.

Improving Recovery of Recyclable Materials

The CloseWEEE project is what the world needs right now. It combines research and innovation to improve recycling solutions. Recently, they came up with new microwave treatment tech specifically for lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries that are discarded. As part of the process, these batteries are placed through pre-treatment where they are discharged. They also go through mechanical processing before they are transferred into a microwave furnace where they are heated rapidly.

As a result, the electrolytes evaporate. This process produces electrolyte-free material that will then be subject to hydrometallurgical treatment. This step is where metals such as cobalt, graphite, manganese, and lithium are extracted.

Recovering critical raw materials (CRMs) is a crucial step in the recycling process as these extracted substances will be used to create new products. The precious metals that are extracted can be used to create a variety of goods, including high-tech devices. But in general, materials that are recovered from battery recycling can be used by other industries aside from the battery industry. The steel industry, for example, can benefit from these recycled materials. On the other hand, it will still depend on the quality of the substances extracted.

CRMs may also be used to produce solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, wind turbines and more. That makes recycling e-waste even more beneficial to the environment. By improving recovery solutions for these precious materials, we can also help other programs that are doing their part to save the planet.

CloseWEEE is in its final year, but it is not, in any way, slowing down. They’ve come up with integrated solutions designed for the pre-processing of EEE, which is an advanced recovery technique for CRMs such as graphite and antimony. Moreover, the CloseWEEE project played a crucial role in the creation of a compound that’s high in quality and is very suitable for applications in new EEE. It is a specific kind of plastic polymer, and it is often used in 3D printing.

Takeaway

Everyone has a role to play in our fight against pollution. As consumers and as citizens, we can all demand stronger policies and better recycling programs from our governments and communities. Better yet, we can take part in the creation of these new solutions. As CloseWEEE proves, we can push the limits of innovation and produce revolutionary solutions that can make the world a better place. We must if we want to preserve all that is good in this world.

For more information about recovering your electronic equipment waste, please contact us. We will be happy to assist you with all your e-waste needs.

Urban Mining – Help the Environment

With billions of people owning smartphones and other electronic gadgets, it’s not surprising that e-waste is one of the fastest-growing threats to the environment. Any discarded product that is either battery- or electricity-operated is considered E-waste.

There’s a two-fold problem with e-waste: one is that consumers are so quick to upgrade and replace gadgets, which results in an unbelievable amount of natural resources spent on these products.

Another concern is that these gadgets remain stored away in most homes, albeit unused. Unlike perishable waste, it’s much harder for people to throw away laptops, TV, and similar devices. In fact, each family keeps around 80 broken or old devices on average.

In a report published by United Nations University, it was found that the fate of majority of e-wastes (a whopping 76%) is unknown, and are likely kept, traded or dumped hazardously in landfills.  That’s a significant amount of E-waste not being recycled.

Urban Mining As A Solution

Gadgets that do manage to enter the recycling chain undergo urban mining. This process is not only beneficial for the environment, but also has the potential to be quite profitable. A large variety of valuable materials and plastics are found in electric and electronic equipment (EEE).

Up to 60 precious metals are perfectly recoverable in urban mining, which include gold, silver, platinum, copper, and iron. Estimates put the potential value of raw materials in mobile phone waste alone to be as high as 9.4 billion Euros.

Now, urban mining is actually not a new concept, as it has been implemented since 2010. However, there ‘s still a long way to go before countries are able to fully implement urban mining. The Global E-Waste Monitor has found that only 20% out of 44.5 million metric tons of e-waste were collected and recycled in 2016. Clearly, there’s still a lot to be done to boost urban mining.

One major hurdle to urban mining is that e-waste management is as complex as the production of these devices. High-tech facilities and engineers are needed to be able to process e-waste properly. There’s also a lack of comprehensive legislation focused on e-waste that can steer budget and standards for waste management and urban mining. Only 67 countries have e-waste laws.

Urban Mining Initiatives

The good news is, many companies worldwide are able to engage in e-waste management. In India for instance, Cerebra Integrated Technologies Limited is a forerunner for establishing collection sites and sophisticated waste recycling facilities. The company ensures that the recovery of elements like palladium, copper and gold are done with zero landfill or water contamination.

A South Korean factory, SungEel HiTech specializes in recycling the precious metals from used car batteries. These are welcome developments, especially since Asia is the largest contributor of e-waste among all continents.

In the western front, European companies are exploring more efficient and tech-based processes that can improve disassembling and treatment of devices. This way, valuable materials are fully retrieved and the process won’t be as labor intensive. Tech giant Apple introduced Daisy, a robot that recovers materials from old iPhones.

Waste Management That Supports Urban Mining

Effective waste management plays a key role in making urban mining efficient, since it channels e-waste to the appropriate recycling facilities. A good example is seen in England, where waste collectors are enjoining their office-based clients to segregate waste on site before collecting them.

In addition, waste firms look for ‘bespoke’ buyers aside from wholesalers to maximize disposal of more obscure materials.

If these creative solutions are galvanized and strengthened by legislation, there will be big changes on how e-waste can be tapped. V Ranganathan, the CEO and Founder of Cerebra Integrated, believes that the “glaring need” for people to be more mindful of protecting the environment falls largely on the shoulders of tech companies and service providers.

In essence, societies need to shift from a consumer-driven linear economy to a circular perspective. Reuse, repair, redistribution, and remanufacture of e-waste should be preferred prior to creating devices from raw materials.

There is a valuable opportunity in the e-waste management scheme. Helping the environment, keeping natural resources in the loop and earning from the whole process is something that all of society should embrace.

Here at Securis, we can help you dispose of all your e-waste securely. Contact us now and we can destroy your data in a way that won’t put our planet at risk.

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