Researchers Develop Method to Separate Discarded Parts of Cellphone

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Researchers developed a method to separate fiberglass and resin that are discarded parts of cellphone, according to a study conducted on April 12, 2018.

This is the first process that uses technique such as gravity separation to cleanly lift organic resins from inorganic fiberglass. Two billion new cellphones are sold every year worldwide and the discarding of cellphones are a growing source of electronic waste. The main aim of most of the e-waste recycling firms is to recover useful metals like gold, silver, copper and palladium, which can further be used in the manufacturing of other products.

However, nonmetal parts like fiberglass and resins, which make up the bulk of cellphones’ printed circuit boards, are discarded as they’re less valuable and more difficult to process. They’re either fed to incinerators or become landfill, where they can leach hazardous chemicals into groundwater, soil and air. The method developed by Holuszko and Amit Kumar, a PhD student used gravity separation and other simple physical techniques to process cellphone fiberglass and resins in an environmentally neutral fashion.

Kumar said, “The key here is gravity separation, which efficiently separates the fiberglass from the resin by using the differences in their densities. The separated fiberglass can then be used as a raw material for construction and insulation. In the future, if we can find a way to improve the quality of the recycled fiberglass, it may even be suitable for manufacturing new circuit boards.”

Researchers are now planning to develop a large-scale model of the same process by partnering with Ronin8, which is a Richmond, B.C. recycling company that separates different plastics, fibers and metals in electronic waste streams without the use of toxic chemicals.

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