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JULY 2006


Technology is key for electronics recycling

Palo Alto, CA— The emerging area of electronic waste (e-waste) recovery is attracting increasing attention as governments of several developed countries issue directives to address the environmental hazards posed by existing methods to dispose waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Conventional methods, such as disposal in landfills and incineration, are both damaging to the environment due to the leaching and emission of certain toxic substances respectively.

“Japan and some European nations have been forerunners in the recycling of e-waste,” remarks Technical Insights research analyst Hari Ramamoorthy. “Very soon, recycling directives for e-waste will be prevalent in many major countries and the various technologies developed for this purpose will be adapted globally.”

Growing initiatives in countries such as China and Taiwan have also opened up a potentially profitable market for electronic waste recovery in Asia and could help identify more environment-friendly methods of disposing the toxic and hazardous substances found in e-waste.

One of the areas holding maximum growth potential within electronics recycling is plastics recycling. However, recovery techniques for this particular area are still emerging, especially with regard to separating high-value plastic streams from the mixed plastics present in electronic waste.

This challenge can be attributed to the presence of different types of brominated flame retardants in the plastic stream, which complicate the very process of recycling. While advanced technologies could help achieve this separation and consequently, effective plastics recycling, they are sure to face intense competition from traditional processes used in recovering energy from plastics.

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