E-waste Case Study

16 May 2017


  • E-waste: Electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing solid waste stream worldwide, and one of the most technically challenging for resource recovery and/or recycling given its complex mix of precious, semi-precious, rare earth and base metals, plastics, glass, contaminants and hazardous components. The manufacturing and sales of equipment in the global electronic industry now exceeds US$1 trillion annually, and is expected to generate some 50 million tonnes of obsolete equipment[i], or e-waste, in 2017[ii] worldwide. An international study estimated [iii] $52 billion, in terms of potential resources, was lost in 2014 to the global economy, through the landfilling, dumping or stockpiling of e-waste. The UN reports that just 10-40% of e-waste is properly recycled. This imprecise estimate is due to the largely untracked diversion of large volumes of e-waste to developing nations for cheaper informal recycling, mainly to recover metals. Informal processing includes the dismantling of e-waste by hand, open burning of printed circuit boards (PCBs), plastic chipping and melting, the burning of wires to recover copper, as well as acid & cyanide salt leaching and inadequate metallurgical treatments. Such processes release toxic pollutants such as heavy metals, dioxins, furans and lead, contaminating the soil, ground water and the atmosphere, and posing serious health risks to local communities.


  • What we making, some examples: metal alloys, 3D printer filament (plastic), rare earth oxides (magnets from e-waste) silicon carbide (SiC) nanofibre/particle composites (with waste tyres), copper-tin nanoparticles (PCBs)