1.1. Definitions, Classification and Composition of E-Waste
European WEEE Directive“Electrical or electronic equipment which is waste … including all components, sub-assemblies and consumables, which are part of the product at the time of discarding.”
Basel Action Network“E-waste encompasses a broad and growing range of electronic devices ranging from large household devices such as refrigerators, air conditioners, cell phones, personal stereos, and consumers electronics to computers which have been discarded by their users.”
|1||Large household appliances||Large HH|
|2||Small household appliances||Small HH|
|3||IT and telecommunications equipment||ICT|
|6||Electrical and electronic tools (with the exceptions of large-scale stationary industrial tools)||E & E tools|
|7||Toys, leisure and sport equipment||Toys|
|8||Medical devices (with the exception of all implanted and infected products)||Medical equipment|
|9||Monitoring and control instruments||M & C|
|Materials||Typical Concentrations (in wt% and ppm)|
|Metals (Max. wt. 40%)||Shuey and Taylor ||Kim et al. ||Iji and Yokoyama ||Ewasteguide.info |
|Ceramics (Max. wt. 30%)||Shuey and Taylor ||Kim et al. ||Iji and Yokoyama ||Ewasteguide.info |
|Alkali and alkaline earth oxides||6||CaO 9.95|
|Titanates and mica, etc.||3||-|
|Plastics (Max. wt. 30%)||Shuey and Taylor ||Kim et al. ||Iji and Yokoyama ||Ewasteguide.info |
|Polyethylene||9.9||-||Total of all plastics 16 wt%||Total of all plastics 23 wt%|
|PGMs:||Pd, Pt, Rh, Ir and Ru;|
|BMs:||Cu, Al, Ni, Sn, Zn and Fe;|
|MCs (Hazardous):||Hg, Be, In, Pb, Cd, As and Sb;|
|SEs:||Te, Ga, Se, Ta and Ge.|
1.2. General Driving Force for E-Waste Processing
1.2.1. Environmental Concerns
|No.||Materials and Components||Description|
|1||Batteries||Heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium are present in batteries|
|2||Cathode ray tubes (CTRs)||Lead in the cone glass and fluorescent coating cover the inside of panel glass|
|3||Mercury containing components such as switches||Mercury is used in thermostats, sensors, relays and switches (e.g., on PCBs and in measuring equipment and discharge lamps). It is also used in medical equipment, data transmission, telecommunication, and mobile phones|
|4||Asbestos waste||Asbestos waste has to be treated selectively|
|5||Toner cartridges, liquid and pasty, as well as color toner||Toner and toner cartridges have to be removed from any separately collected WEEE|
|6||PCBs||In PCBs, cadmium occurs in certain components, such as SMD chip resistors, infrared detectors and semiconductors|
|7||Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) containing capacitors||PCB-containing capacitors have to be removed for safe destruction|
|8||Liquid crystal displays (LCDs)||LCDs of a surface greater than 100 cm2 have to be removed from WEEE|
|9||Plastics containing halogenated flame retardants||During incineration/combustion of the plastics, halogenated flame retardants can produce toxic components|
|10||Equipment containing chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) or hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)||CFCs present in foam and refrigerating circuit must be properly extracted and destroyed. HCFCs or CFCs present in foam and refrigerating circuit must be properly extracted and destroyed or recycled|
|11||Gas discharge lamps||Mercury has to be removed|
1.2.2. Energy and Resource Conservation
|No.||Materials||Energy savings (%)|
|3||Iron and steel||74|
1.2.3. Economic Value of Selected PMs
|Weights%||Fe (wt%)||Al (wt%)||Cu (wt%)||Plastics (wt%)||Ag (ppm)||Au (ppm)||Pd (ppm)|
2. E-Waste Processing
2.1. Metallurgical Processes for the Extraction of Metals from E-Waste
2.1.1. Hydrometallurgical Processes
|Investigators||Leaching agent||Process conditions||Recovered metals|
|Park and Fray ||Aqua regia||Ratio of metals to leachant = 1:20 g/mL||Au, Ag and Pd|
|Sheng and Estell ||HNO3 (1st stage), epoxy resin (2nd stage), and aqua regia (3rd stage)||Extraction was carried out in the three stages (self agitation)||Au|
|Quinet et al. ||H2SO4, chloride, thiourea and cyanide leaching||Leaching & metals recovery by cementation, precipitation, ion exchange and carbon adsorption||Au, Ag, Pd and Cu|
|Chielewski et al. ||HNO3 and aqua regia||Roasting of e-waste in the presence of carbon; leaching with HNO3 and aqua regia; and solvent extraction with diethyle malonate||Au|
|Zhou et al. ||HCl, H2SO4 and NaClO3||Combustion of e-waste at 400–500 °C followed by leaching||Ag, Au and Pd|
|Kogan ||HCl, MgCl2, H2SO4 and H2O2||Dissolution of e-waste in different solvents and leaching conditions; and recovery of metals in stages||Al, Sn, Pb and Zn (1st stage), Cu and Ni (2nd stage), Au, Ag, Pd and Pt (last stage)|
|Veit et al. ||Aqua regia and H2SO4||Mechanical processing and then dissolution of e-waste in different solvents||Cu|
|Mecucci and Scott ||HNO3||Electrochemical deposition of Cu at cathode from solution||Pb and Cu|
Limitations of Hydrometallurgy Route
- Overall, hydrometallurgical routes are slow and time consuming and impact recycling economy. There are concerns regarding the economy of hydrometallurgical routes compared to pyrometallurgical processes for the extraction of PMs from e-waste.
- Mechanical processing of e-waste takes longer to reduce size for efficient dissolution. It is reported that 20% PM is lost by mechanical force during the liberation process that contributes to a significant loss in the overall revenue.
- Cyanide is a dangerous leachant and should therefore be used with high safety standards. It can cause contamination of rivers and seawater, especially near gold mines, which poses serious health risks to the inhabitants.
- Halide leaching is difficult to implement due to strong corrosive acids and oxidizing conditions. Specialized equipment made of stainless steel and rubbers is required for leaching of gold using halide agents from e-waste.
- The use of thiourea leachants is limited in gold extraction due to its high cost and consumption. Moreover, further developments are required to improve the current technology of thiourea-based gold leaching.
- The consumption of thiosulfate is comparatively higher and the overall process is slower, which limits its application for gold extraction from ores as well as from e-waste.
- There are risks of PM loss during dissolution and subsequent steps, therefore the overall recovery of metals will be affected.
2.1.2. Pyrometallurgical Processes
126.96.36.199. Lead Smelting Route
188.8.131.52. Copper Smelting Route
184.108.40.206. Limitations of Pyrometallurgical Processes
- Recovery of plastics is not possible because plastics replace coke as a source of energy;
- Iron and aluminum recovery is not easy as they end up in the slag phase as oxides;
- Hazardous emissions such as dioxins are generated during smelting of feed materials containing halogenated flame retardants. Therefore special installations are required to minimize environmental pollution;
- A large investment is required for installing integrated e-waste recycling plants that maximize the recovery of valuable metals and also protect the environment by controlling hazardous gas emissions;
- Instant burning of fine dust of organic materials (e.g., non-metallic fractions of e-waste) can occur before reaching the metal bath. In such cases, agglomeration may be required to effectively harness the energy content and also to minimize the health risk posed by fine dust particles;
- Ceramic components in feed material can increase the volume of slag generated in the blast furnaces, which thereby increases the risk of losing PMs from BMs;
- Partial recovery and purity of PMs are achieved by pyrometallurgical routes. Therefore, subsequent hydrometallurgical and electrochemical techniques are necessary to extract pure metals from BMs;
- Handling the process of smelting and refining is challenging due to complex feed materials. The expertise in process handling and the thermodynamics of possible reactions will be difficult.
3. Industrial Processes for the Recovery of Metals from E-Waste
3.1. Umicore Integrated Metals Smelters and Refinery
3.2. Metals Recovery from E-Waste at Rönnskär Smelters
3.3. Noranda Process
- It maximizes the overall segregation of PMs in the copper fraction, and, therefore, the final recovery will be higher;
- It partially replaces coke with plastics as a source of energy during the smelting process;
- It provides a source for recycling of e-waste;
- Moreover, it is efficient in terms of resource management by closing the loop of metals.
|Umicore’s process [20,60,61]||Au, Ag, Pd, Pt, Se, Ir, Ru, Rh, Cu, Ni, Pb, In, Bi, Sn, As, Sb||Isasmelt smelting, copper leaching & electrowinning and PMs refinery|
|Outotec TSL ||Zn, Cu, Au, Ag, In, Pb, Cd, Ge||Ausmelt TSL furnace (trials in Melbourne, Australia), smelting of e-waste in copper/lead/zinc processes|
|Rönnskär smelters [63,67]||Cu, Ag, Au, Pd, Ni, Se, Zn, Pb||Smelting in Kaldo reactor, upgrading in copper and followed by refining, high PMs recovery|
|Noranda process ||Cu, Au, Ag, Pt, Pd, Se, Te, Ni||Smelting of e-waste and Cu concentrate. Upgrading in converter and anode furnaces. Electrorefining for metal recovery|
|Rönnskär smelters tests [63,68]||Cu and PMs||PC scrap feeding to Zn fuming process, Plastics is used as reducing agent, PMs are segregated in Cu and are recovered at later stage|
|Umicore’s trials ||Au, Ag, Pd, Pt, Se, Ir, Ru, Rh, Cu, Ni, Pb, In, Bi, Sn, As, Sb||Plastics from e-waste is tested at energy and reducing agent during smelting|
|Dowa mining Kosaka Japan ||Cu, Au, Ag||E-waste TSL smelting in secondary copper process|
|LS-Nikko’s recycling facility, Korea ||Au, Ag & PGMs metals||Recycling in TSL smelting followed by electrolytic refining|
|Day’s patent ||PMs, Pt and Pd||Smelting in plasma arc furnace at 1400 °C. PMs collected in BM. Ceramic residue went in the slag phase. Ag and Cu used to collect metals during process|
|Aleksandrovich patent ||PGMs and gold||Scrap combustion in a BM using carbon as reducing agent, Solidification and separation of solidified product are carried out by formed phase boundaries|
|Aurubis recycling Germany ||Cu, Pb, Zn, Sn and PMs||Smelting of Cu and e-waste in TSL reactor, black copper processing and finally electrorefining|
4. Design for Resource (DfR) Efficiency
5. E-Waste Recycling in Australia
6. Challenges for the Recycling of E-Waste in Australia
6.1. Lack of Facilities for E-Waste Collection
6.2. Transportation (Cost and Distance)
6.3. Lack of Facilities for Separating Metals from Complex E-Waste Materials
6.4. Technical Barriers—Knowledge of Process Thermodynamics
6.5. Lack of Integrated Smelting and Refining Facility
6.6. Economic Barriers
6.7. Direct Recycled Metal Manufacturing
Conflicts of Interest
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