Recovering value from circuit boards
Posted on 09/10/2018
Current treatment routes for printed circuit boards (PCBs) recover only common and high volume valuable metals. Other rare earth elements, such as tantalum, are lost as they are present in low quantities and recovery is not economically viable.
The objective of this recovery trial was, therefore, to investigate whether different treatment routes could enable economically viable recovery of some of the valuable, but low quantity, elements by isolating the components within which they are contained.
Within the trial, Axion Recycling Ltd (Axion), experts in the resource recovery sector, partnered with two organisations; E3 Recycling, based in South Wales, and the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), the developer of the Itrimex process for chemically treating PCBs to recover all metals, wires and components. E3 Recycling undertook supplementary WEEE dismantling activities and then ITRI demonstrated the technical feasibility of their novel process on the PCBs recovered.
The CRMs and other elements specifically targeted in the recovery trials were cobalt, antimony, tantalum, platinum group metals, gold and silver.
The recovery activities directly followed the successful completion of a retail and charity collection trial that Axion delivered as part of the CRM Recovery project.
Full details of all the CRM Recovery case studies are available here.
Critical Raw Material Recovery Closed Loop Project (CRM Recovery)
The EU LIFE funded Critical Raw Material Closed Loop Recovery project, of which KTN is a partner, is investing in trials exploring novel ways of boosting the recovery of critical raw materials (CRMs) from household waste electrical and electronic products (WEEE). The project aims to increase the recovery of target CRMs by 5% by 2020 and by 20% by 2030.
The collection and recovery trials were the first stage in the €2.1m, three-and-a-half-year project, which is supported by the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union, Innovate UK, the Welsh Government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and led by WRAP. The outputs from the trials will inform policy recommendation throughout the EU.