Canada – A team of Canadian researchers says it has ‘perfected’ a process to separate fibreglass and resin, which are commonly used in creating consumer electronics. The breakthrough is claimed to have brought the University of British Columbia (UBC) one step closer to realising ‘zero waste’ handhelds.
The UBC has developed a method combining gravity separation with other ‘simple’ physical techniques to target material of a specific density and ‘cleanly’ lift organic resins from inorganic fibreglass.
After being processed, the separated fibreglass can serve as a raw material for construction and insulation.
At present, the researchers are working on improving the quality of the output material so that it is suitable for use in the production of brand new circuit boards.
‘Discarded smartphones are a huge, growing source of electronic waste, with close to two billion new phones sold every year around the world – and people are replacing their phones every few years,’ observes UBC mining engineering Professor Maria Holuszko, who led the recycling project.
Leading recycling companies tend to focus on recovering metals such as gold, silver, palladium and copper, according to Holuszko.
However, non-metal components such as those comprised of fibreglass and resin, which make up the largest proportion of printed circuit boards, are typically landfilled or incinerated because they are less valuable and more difficult to process.