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How to Recycle A Waste Printed Circuit Board? | Things You Should Know

Date:2021/4/2 15:51:00 Hits:




"Waste printed circuit board pollution has become a severe problem throughout the world, how to recycle the waste PCB and what is needed to know? We cover all you need on this page!"


The progress of science and technology facilitates our life, but it often leads to a series of problems, especially for the printed circuit boards. PCB is closely related to our daily life. Improper treatment of printed circuit boards will cause environmental pollution, waste of resources, and other problems. Therefore, how to effectively recycle and recycle waste printed circuit board has become one of the key issues of the times 


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Content

1) Which Industries Have Printed Circuit Boards for Electronics?

2) What is the Toxicity of the Printed Circuit Board?

3) What is the Importance of PCB Recycling?

4) 3 Main Ways of PCB Recycling

5) PCB Recycling - What Can You Recycle?

6) PCB Recycling - How to Recover Copper and Tin?

7) How to Make Waste Printed Circuit Board More Recyclable?

8) What is the Future of Printed Circuit Board Recycling?


In the previous article, we mentioned the definition of printed circuit board: printed circuit board (PCB) is usually used to connect electrical components in electronic equipment. It is made of different non-conductive materials, such as glass fiber, composite epoxy resin, or other laminated materials. Most PCBs are flat and rigid, while flexible substrates can make circuit boards suitable for use in complex space. 


In this share, I will show you all you need to know about waste printed circuit board recycling.


Also read: What is Printed Circuit Board (PCB) | All You Need to Know


Which Industries Have Printed Circuit Boards for Electronics?

Almost all the electronic equipment in various industries are equipped with printed circuit boards, such as computers, TV sets, automobile navigation devices, medical imaging systems, etc



*Printed Circuit Boards are Everywhere


Printed circuit board (PCB) is still widely used in almost all precision equipment and instruments, from a variety of small consumer equipment to large mechanical equipment. 



PCB is very common in the following different electronic equipment:

1. Telecommunication circuit card, network communication board, circuit board, battery unit, PC board (PC motherboard and internal board), notebook computer, tablet computer, and bare board.
2. Desktop (PC master and internal), laptop motherboard, tablet
3. Sub card (network, video, expansion card, etc.)
4. Hard disk drive circuit board (no disk or box)
5. Server and mainframe board, card, backplane (pinboard), etc.
6. Telecommunication and network equipment board
7. Mobile phone board (battery must be removed)
8. Flat circuit board
9. Military circuit board
10. The Aviation circuit board
11. etc.


Application industry of printed circuit board and its equipment classification:

1. Healthcare - Medical Devices
2. Military And Defense - Communications Devices
3. Safety and Security - Intelligent Devices
4. Lighting - LEDs
5. Aerospace - Monitoring Equipment
6. Manufacturing - Internal Devices
7. Maritime - Navigation Systems
8. Consumer Electronics - Entertainment Devices
9. Automotive - Control Systems
10. Telecommunications - Communications Equipment
11. etc.

A printed circuit board (PCB) allows the creation of large and complex electronic circuits in a small space. In addition to meeting the needs and design concepts of PCB designers to achieve highly free electronic component layout and PCB design through manual design (CAD drawing) and automatic design (automatic router), it can also continuously meet various types of electronic products as the core component of almost all electronic products Different needs of different consumers.


Effective PCB design can help reduce the possibility of errors and short circuit opportunities. If you are looking for professional PCB design services, please contact FMUSER. They provides you with a complete PCB design service package, including a PCB editor, design capture technology, interactive router, constraint manager, interface for manufacturing CAD, and component tools. FMUSER will complete the whole process Help you and solve your problems, help you to achieve better PCB design, please let us help you!



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Also read: PCB Design | PCB Manufacturing Process Flow Chart, PPT, and PDF


What is the Toxicity of the Printed Circuit Board?
Printed circuit board design and production are mainly in the copper-clad laminate to remove excess copper and form a circuit, multilayer printed circuit board also needs to connect each layer. Because the circuit board is finer and finer, so the processing accuracy is increasing, resulting in more and more complex PCB production. Its production process has dozens of processes, each process has chemical substances into the wastewater. Pollutants in wastewater from PCB design and production are as follows:

● Copper

Because the circuit is left behind by removing the excess copper from the copper-clad laminate, copper is the main pollutant in PCB design wastewater, and copper foil is the main source. In addition, due to the need to conduct the circuit of each layer of double-sided board and multilayer board, the circuit of each layer is conducted by drilling holes and copper plating on the substrate, while the first layer of copper plating on the substrate (generally resin) and electroless copper plating is used in the intermediate process. 




*Copper in Size of Sands


The electroless copper plating uses complex copper to control the stable copper deposition speed and copper deposition thickness. EDTA Cu (sodium copper ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) is commonly used, but there are also unknown components. The cleaning water of PCB after electroless copper plating also contains complex copper. In addition, there are nickel plating, gold plating, tin plating, and lead plating in PCB production, so these heavy metals are also contained.


● Organic Compound

In the process of making circuit graphics, copper foil etching, circuit welding, and so on, ink is used to cover the copper foil that needs to be protected, and then it is returned. These processes produce a high concentration of organic matter, some COD as high as 10 ~ 20g / L. These high concentration wastewaters account for about 5% of the total water and is also the main source of COD in PCB production wastewater.




*PCB Production Wastewater Treatment (Source: Porex Filtration)


● Ammonia Nitrogen

According to different production processes, some processes contain ammonia, ammonium chloride, etc. in the etching solution, which is the main source of ammonia nitrogen.




*Ammonia-Nitrogen Recovery From Wastewater And Its Use (Source: Researchgate)


● Other Pollutants

In addition to the above main pollutants, there are acid, alkali, nickel, lead, tin, manganese, cyanide ion, and fluorine. Sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, and sodium hydroxide are used in PCB production. There are dozens of commercial solutions, such as etching solution, electroless plating solution, electroplating solution, activation solution, and prepreg. The components are complex. Besides most of the known components, there are a few unknown components, which makes wastewater treatment more complex and difficult.


Also read: PCB Manufacturing Process | 16 Steps to Make a PCB Board


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The Importance of Waste Printed Circuit Boards Recycling


1. Toxicity of Printed Circuit Board

Waste printed circuit board (PCB) is a kind of pollutant that is difficult to degrade and treat and contains heavy metals. The disposal of waste PCB (such as burning, burying, etc.) will cause PCB pollution. Circuit boards often contain toxic metals used in the manufacturing process, including the most common mercury and lead. Both have profound effects on human health


● Mercury poisoning
The toxicity of mercury is such a problem that some countries have proposed a total ban on metal. Mercury poisoning can damage the central nervous system, liver, and other organs, and lead to sensory (vision, language, and hearing) damage.

● Lead poisoning

Lead poisoning can lead to anemia, irreversible nerve damage, cardiovascular effects, gastrointestinal symptoms, and kidney disease. Although handling only certain equipment components, such as computer components, does not constitute a risk level of exposure to these substances, the effects are cumulative - we have been exposed to lead and mercury from other sources, such as household products, paints, and food (especially fish).




*Waste Printed Circuit Board Pollution


As the manufacturing process of printed circuit board inevitably involves the use of chemical products, printed circuit board also contains some harmful heavy metals and other dangerous materials that may pose a serious threat to our environment.

About 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste are produced every year in the world, most of which are burned or dumped into landfills. Environmental scientists are concerned about the ecological and human health hazards caused by e-waste, especially in developing countries receiving large amounts of e-waste. Burning a mixture of plastics and metals in a printed circuit board releases toxic compounds such as dioxins and furans. In landfills, the metal on the boards eventually contaminates the groundwater.




* E-waste Piled up Like A Mountain


Characterization of wastes from printed circuit board manufacturing
The manufacturing process for printed circuit boards is a difficult and complex series of operations. Most of the printed circuit board industries in Taiwan use the subtractive method.   

In general, this process consists of a sequence of brushing, curing of etching resistor, etching, resistor stripping, black oxide, hole drilling, de-smearing, plating through hole, curing of plating resistor, circuits plating, solder plating, plating resistor stripping and copper etching, solder stripping, solder mask printing and hot air leveling.


Also read: PCB Terminology Glossary (Beginners-Friendly) | PCB Design

Due to the complexity of the process, various wastes are generated during printed circuit board manufacturing. 

Table 1 shows the amount of waste generated from a typical multilayer printed circuit board process per square meter of board. Solid wastes include edge trim, copper clad, protection film, drill dust, drill pad, cover clad, waste board, and tin/lead dross.  Liquid wastes include high concentration inorganic/organic spent solutions, low concentration washing solutions, resistor and ink.   

Many spent solutions from printed circuit board manufacturing are strong bases or strong acids. These spent solutions may also have high of heavy metal content and high chemical oxygen demand (COD) values. Consequently, these spent solutions are characterized as hazardous wastes and subjected to tight environmental regulations.  

Nevertheless, some of the spent solutions contain high concentrations of copper with high recycling potential. These solutions have been subjected to recycling by several recycling plants with great economic benefit for many years.

Recently, several other wastes have also been recycled on a commercial scale. These wastes include printed circuit board edge trim , tin/lead solder dross, wastewater treatment sludge containing copper, copper sulfate PTH solution, copper rack stripping solution and tin/lead spent stripping solution. 


Table 1: Amount of waste from multilayer printed circuit board manufacturing process
Item
Waste
Characterization
kg/m2 of PCB
1 Waste board
Hazardous

0.01~0.3kg/m2

2 Edge trim Hazardous
0.1~1.0kg/m2
3 Hole drilling dust Hazardous

0.005~0.2kg/m2

4 Copper powder
Non-hazardous

0.001~0.01kg/m2

5

Tin/lead dross

Hazardous

0.01~0.05kg/m2

6 Copper foil Non-hazardous

0.01~0.05kg/m2

7 Alumina plate Non-hazardous

0.05~0.1kg/m2

8 Film Non-hazardous

0.1~0.4kg/m2

9 Drill backing board Non-hazardous

0.02~0.05kg/m2

10 Paper (packaging) Non-hazardous
0.02~0.05kg/m2
11 Wood Non-hazardous

0.02~0.05kg/m2

12 Container Non-hazardous

0.02~0.05kg/m2

13 Paper (Processing) Non-hazardous
14 Inkfilm Non-hazardous

0.02~0.1kg/m2

15 Wastewater treatment slurry Hazardous

0.02~3.0kg/m2

16 Gargabe Non-hazardous

0.05~0.2kg/m2

17 Acidic etching solution Hazardous

1.5~3.5 L/m2

18 Basic etching solution Hazardous

1.8~3.2 L/m2

19 Rack stripping solution Hazardous

0.2~0.6 L/m2

20 Tin/lead stripping solution Hazardous

0.2~0.6 L/m2

21 Sweller solution Hazardous

0.05~0.1 L/m2

22

Flux solution

Hazardous

0.05~0.1 L/m2

23 Microetching solution Hazardous 1.0~2.5 L/m2
24 PTH copper solution Hazardous 0.2~0.5 L/m2

Figure 1 shows the ratio of major wastes generated from the printed circuit board manufacturing process.



Figure 1: Proportions of wastes generated from printed circuit board manufacturing




This is one of the main reasons why we advocate that waste printed circuit boards should not be discarded in landfills.

2. Useful Containments in Printed Circuit Board

The general military electronic equipment or civil electronic equipment are equipped with printed circuit boards, which contain a variety of recyclable precious metals and important electronic components, some of which can be decomposed, recycled, and reused, such as silver, gold, palladium, and copper. In the recovery process, the recovery rate of these precious metals can be as high as 99%.




The printed circuit board is widely used, and the disposal method of the waste printed circuit board is very complicated. It can be seen that recycling waste printed circuit board is conducive to the scientific disposal of non-recyclable PCB electronic waste and reduces the demand for raw materials, such as some PCB electronic components inductors, capacitors, etc., which can improve the utilization rate of resources and reduce the impact of electronic waste Environmental pollution.

Although many people believe that recycling electronic equipment is as important as recycling plastics and metals. In fact, with the increasing number of electronic devices in use today, the correct recycling of electronic devices is more important than ever.

So what are the ways to efficiently recycle waste printed circuit boards? Next, we will introduce in detail how to recycle printed circuit boards.


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How to Recycle Printed Circuit Boards?


Three main ways are available

1) Thermal Recovering
2) Chemical Recovering
3) Physical Recovering


They have pros and cons on the basis of how the metal will be recycled

Let’s take a look. 

1) Thermal Recovering


● Pros: For this process, you must heat the PCB to a high temperature to recover the metals present on the board. Thermal recovery will incinerate the FR-4 but retain the copper. 
● Cons: You can use this method if you choose, but it will create harmful gases in the air like lead and dioxin. 


2) Chemical Recovering

● Pros: Here you will use a bed of acid to recover the metal from the PCB. 
● Cons: The board gets put into the acid, which destroys the FR-4 again, and it also creates a large quantity of wastewater that needs treatment before you can dispose of it properly. 


3) Physical Recovering

● Pons: This process involves the shredding, smashing, breaking, and separating of the metal from non-metal components and this method does retain all the metal components, though.
● Cons: While this method does have the least environmental impact, there are still some downsides. It’s a hazard for everyone working around the PCB because you’re sending dust, metal, and glass particles into the air, which can lead to respiratory issues if exposed for prolonged periods. 



Metal separation technology

Wastewater from the manufacturing of printed circuit boards contains high level of Cu2+ and small amount of other metal ions (mainly Zn2+). Separation of Cu ions from other metals can improve the purity of recycled copper. A D2EHPA-modified Amberlite XAD-4 resin prepared by solvent-nonsolvent method can remove Zn ions, leaving Cu ions in the solution. Ion-exchange isotherm showed that D2EHPA-modified Amberlite XAD-4 resin has higher Zn ion selectivity than Cu ion. The selective extraction results demonstrated that D2EHPA-modified Amberlite XAD-4 resin can separate Zn/Cu mixed ion solution. After ten batches of contacts, the relative Cu ion concentration increases from 97% to more than 99.6%, while the relative Zn ion concentration decreases from 3.0% to less than 0.4%.




*E-waste Metal Extraction Technologies (Source:RCS Publishing)


Development of more innovative recycled products
As pointed out previously, Cu in wastewater is traditionally recycled as copper oxides and sold to smelters. The other alternative is to prepare CuO particles directly from wastewater. This will significantly increase the value of recycled product. CuO particles can be used to prepare high-temperature superconductors, materials with giant magnetoresistance, magnetic storage media, catalysts, pigment, gas sensors, p-type semiconductor, and cathode materials.

In order to prepare CuO nanoparticles, the wastewater is first purified to remove other ion impurities, which can be achieved by selective ion exchange resin such as D2EHPA-modified Amberlite XAD-4 resin.     

Figure 2 shows that the shape of CuO particle can be controlled with PEG, Triton X-100 and adjustment of solution conditions.




Figure 2: CuO particles with varied shape


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PCB Recycling - What Can You Recycle?
Recycling waste printed circuit boards is expensive. Only the metal part of the circuit board has reuse value, so the non-metal part must be separated from the electronic waste, which is an expensive process.

There are many ways to recycle waste printed circuit boards. It includes hydrometallurgical and electrochemical processes. Many of these methods contribute to the recovery of precious metal scrap, electronic components, and connectors.

Take copper as an example. As one of the precious metals with high recovery value, copper can be reused in a variety of applications. The first advantage of copper is its high conductivity. This means it can easily transmit signals without losing power on the way. It also means that manufacturers don't have to use a lot of copper. Even a small amount of work can be done. In the most common configuration, an ounce of copper can be turned into 35 microns (about 1.4 inches thick), covering the entire square foot of a PCB substrate. Copper is also readily available and relatively cheap.




*PCB Board Recycling Machine


During the disposal of printed circuit boards, copper may seep into the environment through media such as wastewater and solid waste. In addition to damaging the environment, it's very wasteful, because the copper in the printed circuit board can actually be very valuable.

Therefore, most of the recycling targets of waste printed circuit boards focus on how to recycle copper in waste printed circuit boards



Recycling of resourceful wastes generated by the printed circuit board industry includes 
(1) recovery of copper metal from edge trim of printed circuit boards
(2) recovery of tin metal from tin/lead solder dross in the hot air leveling process 
(3) recovery of copper oxide from wastewater treatment sludge
(4) recovery of copper from basic etching solution
(5) recovery of copper hydroxide from copper sulfate solution in the plated through holes (PTH ) process
(6) recovery of copper from the rack stripping process
(7) recovery of copper from spent tin/lead stripping solution in the solder stripping process.


Also read: Through Hole vs Surface Mount | What is the Difference?


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PCB Recycling - How to Recover Copper and Tin?


Due to years of study by research institutes, the recycling industry and government promotions, the recycling wastes from printed circuit board processes that contain valuable resources has been very fruitful. Some examples that have been reported as successful are described below.


The following are some key methods for copper recovery:

● Copper recovery from edge trim of printed circuit boards: 
To recover copper from edge trim of printed circuit board, use stripping solution. This dissolves precious metals, such as gold, silver, and platinum, and can be reused. The copper is then mechanically separated by chopping and trimming the trim, and the cyclone is used to pull the copper out of the plastic resin.


Printed circuit board edge trim has high copper content ranging from 25% to 60%, as well as precious metal content (> 3 ppm). The process for recovery of copper and precious metals from printed circuit board edge trim is similar to that from waste printed circuit boards.

In general, the edge trim is processed alone with waste printed circuit boards. 

The recycling process includes:
a. Hydrometallurgy
Edge trim is first treated with stripping solution to strip and dissolve precious metals, typically gold (Au), silver (Ag) and platinum (Pt). After adding suitable reductants, the ions of precious metals are reduced to metal form. The recovered Au can be further processed to prepare commercially important potassium gold cyanide (KAu(CN)2) by electrochemical methods.

b. Mechanical separation
After the precious metals recovery, the edge trim is further processed to recover copper metal. In general, mechanical separation is involved. The edge trim is first shredded and ground. Due to difference of density, the copper metal particles can be separated from the plastic resin by a cyclone separator.



● Recovery of copper from wastewater sludge: 

The wastewater sludge in the printed circuit board industry typically contains high amounts of copper (>13%, dry base). To obtain this copper, the sludge is heated to 600-750 ℃ to produce the copper oxide, which is then converted to metallic copper in a furnace. The recycling of the sludge is simple and straightforward. The general practice in the recycling industry is to heat the sludge to 600-750°C to remove the excess amount of water and to convert the copper hydroxide to copper oxide. The copper oxide is then sold to the smelter to produce copper metal. However, the current practice is energy consuming and the environmental impact should be subjected to further evaluation.


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● Recovery of copper from spent alkaline etching solution: 

The spent solution is generated from the etching process. Adjusting the solution to weak acid condition to produce copper hydroxide, and then perform the process of removing copper from wastewater sludge. You can use the selective ion exchange resin to recover the residual copper in the filtrate. Spent basic etching solution contains about 130-150 g/L of copper. The spent solution is first adjusted to a weak acidic condition, at which most of the copper ions are precipitated out as copper (II) hydroxide (Cu(OH)2). Cu(OH)2 is filtered and further processed to recover copper similar to that as used in sludge recycling (Section 3.3). The copper remaining in the filtrate (about 3g/L) is further recovered with selective ion exchange resins. Since the filtrate is acidic, the spent solution can be used to neutralize basic etching solution at the beginning of this process.

Ca(OH)2 can also be further converted to Cu(SO)4. Copper hydroxide is dissolved in concentrated sulfuric acid. After cooling, crystallization, filtration or centrifugation and drying, Cu(SO)4 is obtained.    

Figure 3 shows the recycling process.



Figure 3: Recovery of copper from acidic (basic) etching solution


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● Recovery of copper hydroxide from copper sulfate solution in electroplating through-hole (PTH) process: 
The solution is put into the reactor and stirred, while the temperature is reduced to 10-20 ℃ by a cooler. A centrifuge was used to recover the copper sulfate crystal, and the pH value of the effluent was adjusted to recover the remaining copper hydroxide.


Spent copper sulfate generated from PTH manufacturing contains copper ions at a concentration between 2-22 g/L. The spent solution is loaded into the reactor. The solution is agitated while the temperature is lowered by a chiller to 10-20°C, at which the copper sulfate crystal precipitates out of solution. The copper sulfate crystal is recovered by centrifugation. The pH of the effluent is further readjusted to basic condition to recover the remaining copper as Cu(OH)2, of which the recycling process is as described previously. 

Figure 4 shows the process.



Figure 4: Recovery of copper hydroxide from copper sulfate solution in PTH process


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● Recovery of copper from rack stripping process: 
To recover copper from waste nitric acid, use an electro deposition reactor for electrolytic deposition to recover copper ions in the form of metal copper.


The stripping process is done to remove copper from the rack and uses nitric acid. The copper in the spent nitric acid is in the form of copper ion. Therefore, the copper ion (approximately 20 g/L) can be recovered directly by electro winning. Under suitable electrochemical conditions, the copper ions can be recovered as metal copper. The other metal ions in the spent solution can also be reduced and deposited along with copper on cathode. After the electrochemical process, the nitric acid solution contains about 2 g/L of copper and some trace amount of other metal ions. The solution can be used as nitric solution to strip the rack. The stripping efficiency is not affected by the presence of the metal ions.



Figure 5: Recovery of copper from copper rack stripping process


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● Recovery of copper from spent tin/lead stripping solution, recovery of copper from tin stripping process: 

After the etching process, the protective tin/lead solder plate should be removed to expose the copper connections. The printed circuit board is immersed in nitric acid or hydrogen fluoride stripping solution to peel tin and lead from the tin plate. The precipitated copper, lead, and tin oxide can be recovered by electro deposition, and they can be filtered. Tin/lead solder can be stripped by immersing printed circuit boards in nitric acid or hydrogen fluoride (HF) stripping solution (20% H2O2, 12% HF). The spent solution contains 2-15 g/L Cu ion, 10-120 g/L tin ion and 0-55 g/L Pb ion. Copper and lead can be recovered by an electrochemical process. During the process, tin ion is precipitated out as oxides, which is filter pressed to recover valuable tin oxides. The filtrate is low in metal ions and can be used as tin/lead stripping solution after composition readjustment.    


The recycling process is shown as Figure 6.


Figure 6: Recycling of tin/lead spent stripping solution


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● Recovery of tin from hot air leveling (solder dross) process: 
tin / lead-tin slag will be produced during the hot air leveling process, which is suitable for recycling. Tin is separated by heating the slag in a reverberatory furnace at about 1400 to 1600 degrees Celsius, slag is removed to remove iron, and then it is put into a sulfur-containing melting furnace to remove copper.

Although these processes seem to be time-consuming, once you have established a system for recycling printed circuit board materials, you can easily pass through them and recycle some valuable metals for reuse or sale, so as to protect the environment at the same time.


Tin/lead solder dross generated from hot air leveling and solder plating processes typically contains approximately 37% lead (Pb) and 63% tin (Sn) metals and oxides. The dross may also contain approximately 10,000 ppm of Cu and a small amount of Fe. The dross is first heated in a reverberatory furnace (1400-1600°C) and reduced to metals by carbon reduction.


During the deslagging operation, the iron impurity is removed. In order to reach the standard of Sn63 solder, of which Cu< 0.03%, the trace amount of copper should also be removed. This can be achieved by placing the molten metal in a melting furnace with the addition of sulfur. The sulfur reacts with copper to form copper monosulfide (CuS), which can be removed as slag. The tin lead ratio is analyzed with X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and readjusted to meet standards in Taiwan by adding high grade Sn and Pb metal.        


Figure 7 shows the recycling process.



Figure 7: Tin/lead dross recycling process


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Printed circuit boards are usually recycled by disassembly. Disassembly involves removing tiny components from the PCB. Once restored, many of these components can be reused. Common PCB components include a capacitor, switch, audio socket, TV plug, resistor, motor, screw, CRT, led, and transistor. Removing PCB requires special tools and very careful handling.


How to Make Waste Printed Circuit Board More Recyclable?
As a world-famous first-class manufacturer and seller of printed circuit boards, FMUSER always pays attention to the production technology and design skills of printed circuit boards, but at the same time, we are also trying to recycle those waste printed circuit boards, hoping to reduce the impact of this kind of electronic waste on the environment and ecology. However, so far, we have not found any way to make waste printed circuit boards The recycling process of circuit boards has become more efficient or easier, but we are still working towards it.




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What is the Future of Printed Circuit Board Recycling?
Through the above methods, you can easily recycle copper and tin on waste printed circuit boards, as well as some other electronic components. In continuous practice, you can even distinguish between THT (through-hole technology) and SMT (surface mount) The PCB assembled by two different PCB assembly methods is different in separation, but FMUSER recommends that no matter what method you use to recycle the waste PCB, please pay attention to personal health and safety and environmental health and safety at all times.


The commercial recycling processes for the wastes of the printed circuit board industry mainly focus on the recovery of copper and precious metals. Recently, the average price of copper has risen significantly due to the imbalance of demand and supply. This is the driving force behind the successful development of the copper recycling industry in Taiwan. Nevertheless, there are still many issues that need to be addressed.




The recycling of the non-metal portion of printed circuit boards, however, is relatively small. It has been demonstrated, in a small commercial scale, that the plastic material can be used for artwork materials, artificial wood and construction materials. Nevertheless, the niche market is quite limited. Most of the non-metal wastes of printed circuit boards are therefore treated as landfill (76%-94%). 

In the U.S., the non-metal portions of printed circuit boards are currently used as raw materials for production by several industries. In plastic lumber, it gives strength to the "wood"; in concrete it adds strength, making the concrete lighter and providing an insulation value ten times higher than that of standard concrete. It is also being used in the composite industry as filler in resins to make everything from furniture to award plaques. More research on this issue is needed in the future.



In view of the current commercial processes, the recycled products are not of great value. The development of more innovative recycled products will help the industry by extending the market to new terrain. In addition to the efforts by the recycling industry, the printed circuit board industry itself should also promote and practice waste minimization. Facilities can significantly reduce waste production to minimize the secondary environmental risk of waste transportation.


We all have the responsibility to protect the environment!


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