E-waste is now the fastest-growing waste stream in the world. It is estimated this waste stream reached 48.5 million tons in 2018. This figure is expected to almost triple if nothing changes. Yet e-waste is worth at least US$62.5 billion annually, which is more than the GDP of most countries; according to a recent report at Davos 2019 WEF “A New Circular Vision for Electronics: Time for a Global Reboot” by PACE & WEF in support of the UN E-waste Coalition.
Traditionally labor-intensive manual dismantling of e-waste achieves higher liberation rates without breaking the original form of components and materials, which is easier to sort and improves re-usability, and the economically attractive precious metals (PMs) such as gold content recovery can be higher than automatic mechanical method due to better dismantling depth caused by higher separation efficiency; such informal e-waste processing are prevailing in developing countries, yet rudimentary recycling techniques to burn the plastic from electronic goods leaving the valuable metals (melting down lead in open pots, or dissolving circuit boards in acid) lead to workers exposed to many toxic substances, groundwater contaminated, air and soil polluted. The low gold leaching rate further weakened the incentive of such low performing informal e-waste processing.
So far the only lower environmental impact with higher PMs recovery rate alternative mainly implemented in developed countries by using automatic mechanical size reduction based integrated smelter-refinery, which requires substantial investment capital (Umico >500 million Euros) and sufficient economic scale (a typical aluminium smelter in Europe requires a minimum input of 50,000 tons of aluminum scrap per year to run a plant); there are only a few companies in the world equipped with sophisticated capabilities to fulfill the technical and environmental requirements. UWIN, an eco-friendly & innovative e-waste processing technology combines the advantages of both and even beyond; low-cost operation & high separation efficiency and dismantling depth comparable with those informal sectors from developing countries, yet solving the environmental problems and workers safety & health issues without using Cyanide or Mercury & without the need of burning while semi-automatically retrieve electronic components and keep the high re-usability by using eco-friendly leachant to remove lead/tin at room temperature initially, and the subsequent hydrometallurgical process to leach gold or PMs are also without using Cyanide or Mercury, yet the leaching rate are 4 times faster than Cyanide and gold leaching yield comparable with those integrated smelter-refinery, without the need of expensive Dioxin and Cyanide pollution control equipments.
The revolutionary UWIN e-waste processing technology provide the Best-of-2-Worlds (Bo2W) solution for both developing countries & developed industrial nations (for example, a better way for 2020 Olympic medals in Tokyo from e-waste) towards more eco-friendly way extending the life of electronic products/components, as well as its ability to be recycled and reused, a systematic e-waste optimum treatment solutions in environmental, economic and social performance comply with the new circular economy direction envisioned by UN E-waste Coalition.
Audience Take Away:
- E-waste problems world-wide, opportunities and trends.
- E-waste treatment in developing countries, its advantages & disadvantages.
- E-waste treatment in developed industrial nations (such as Japan), its advantages & disadvantages.
- A new eco-friendly E-waste processing technology UWIN, combines the best of the above two.
- Business and research collaboration opportunities expanding UWIN technology world-wide.