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    Discarded e-waste/printed circuit boards: a review of their recent methods of disassembly, sorting and environmental implications

    Oke, Emmanuel A ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5774-6215 and Potgieter, Herman ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2833-7986 (2024) Discarded e-waste/printed circuit boards: a review of their recent methods of disassembly, sorting and environmental implications. Journal of Material Cycles and Waste Management. ISSN 1438-4957

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    Abstract

    The improper disposal of discarded electronic and electrical equipment raises environmental and health concerns, spanning air pollution to water and soil contamination, underscoring the imperative for responsible management practises. This review explores the complex composition of discarded printed circuit boards (DPCBs), crucial components in electronic devices. Comprising substrates, electronic elements and solder, DPCBs showcase a heterogeneous structure with metal (30.0–50.0%) and non-metal (50.0–70.0%) fractions. Notably abundant in precious metals such as Au, Ag, and Pd, DPCBs offer a compelling avenue for recycling initiatives. The inclusion of heavy metals and flame retardants adds complexity, necessitating environmentally sound disposal methods. Ongoing research on smart disassembly, utilising 3D image recognition technology, underscores the importance of accurate identification and positioning of electronic components (ECs). The targeted approach of smart disassembly, centred on valuable components, highlights its significance, albeit with challenges in equipment costs and capacity limitations. In mechanical disassembly, techniques such as grinding and heat application are employed to extract ECs, with innovations addressing gas emissions and damage induced by overheating. Chemical disassembly methods, encompassing epoxy resin delamination and tin removal, present promising recovery options, whilst the integration of chemical and electrochemical processes shows potential. Efficient sorting, encompassing both manual and automated methods, is imperative post-disassembly, with smart sorting technologies augmenting accuracy in the identification and categorisation of ECs. In addition, explorations into NH3/NH4+ solutions for selective metal recovery underscore challenges and stress the necessity for meticulous process optimisation in environmentally sustainable PCB recycling. Challenges and future perspectives have also been expounded.

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