How to turn electronic waste into raw materials?
This is an e-waste recycling facility. Here the dead electronic products are reincarnated and are given a second chance to live as new products.
Thousands and millions of consumer electronics are produced each year, consisting of electronic PCBs, hard drives, batteries, and other electronic components. Once reaching the end of their life cycle, these electronics pile up as waste.
Electronic waste comes from the different markets and municipalities to the factory. At the facility, first, the electric waste is categorized. Larger components are broken down into smaller, more manageable electronic components. A high-temperature furnace is used to melt the plastic away from gold and other metals present in the electronic part.
The plastic melted during the separation process pours out at the other end as a liquid into cold water. Eventually, it’s solidified and cut into smaller pellets of plastic to be reused in manufacturing.
On the other hand, the metals need to be tested for their quality before reuse. These metals are sent to labs for their quality evaluation, where a high-fidelity atomic spectrophotometer is used to analyze the purity and quality of the metals.
The whole process is highly efficient, and all of the so-called waste is turned into raw materials. As explained by the plant manager at the Kocaeli Factory, 15% of the energy used to recycle copper is equivalent to 100% energy required to mine the same amount of copper.
These recycled materials act as feedstock for new electronic material production; for example, cobalt extracted from lithium-ion batteries is procured by various manufacturers to be used in the production of new devices such as USB drives, flash storage, and charging connectors alongside the manufacturing of other stainless steel equipment. The plastic from this facility ends up in the production of hangers.
The facility for e-waste recycling also ensures that any personal information present on any storage device is not disclosed. Like paper shredders, electronic storage devices pass through industrial crushers, reducing them to small metal and plastic remains. This way, electronic waste recycling not only ensures the safety of the planet but also of each individual’s data privacy.
The metals extracted from recycling, such as cobalt, nickel, graphite, and lithium, are in great demand with the rise of electronic vehicles. These materials are generally procured from different parts of the world; thus, if these materials are not recycled, a greater burden is added to the extraction of natural resources, which are already perishing rapidly.