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Optimal Recycling for Printed Wiring Boards (PWBs) in India

TitleOptimal Recycling for Printed Wiring Boards (PWBs) in India
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsRochat D, Hagel├╝ken C, Keller M, Widmer R
Conference NameR'07 Recovery of Materials and Energy for Resource Efficiency
Conference Start DateAugust 2007
Conference LocationDavos, Switzerland

Electronic waste or e-waste recycling in India is mainly motivated by the recovery of value contained in the PWBs (printed wiring boards), which is retrieved by extracting precious metals (mainly gold, silver, palladium) with wet chemical processes, involving highly toxic substances such as mercury and cyanide. These works are done by untrained people, resulting in a high impact on their health and the environment. In contrast to this practice, in Europe, valuable metals from relevant e-waste fractions are recovered efficiently in large industrial integrated smelters and refineries with profit margins allowing for environmentally safe handling of the critical substances.This study shows that the Indian informal sector generates a high environmental impact, as a relatively large amount of chemicals are used for the extraction and are subsequently emitted to the environment without any treatment, while only recovering a significantly smaller fraction of the value contained in the test material compared to an integrated precious metal smelter and refinery.The results provide preliminary figures allowing for proposing new business models to divert certain fractions from the informal sector to dedicated industrial smelters, increasing the profitability of all stakeholders and simultaneously substantially relieving environmental burden and safety and health issues.

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