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Prioritizing material recovery for end-of-life printed circuit boards

TitlePrioritizing material recovery for end-of-life printed circuit boards
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsWang X, Gaustad G
Journal TitleWaste Management
Pages1903 - 1913
KeywordsMulti-criteria decision analysis
AbstractThe increasing growth in generation of electronic waste (e-waste) motivates a variety of waste reduction research. Printed circuit boards (PCBs) are an important sub-set of the overall e-waste stream due to the high value of the materials contained within them and potential toxicity. This work explores several environmental and economic metrics for prioritizing the recovery of materials from end-of-life PCBs. A weighted sum model is used to investigate the trade-offs among economic value, energy saving potentials, and eco-toxicity. Results show that given equal weights for these three sustainability criteria gold has the highest recovery priority, followed by copper, palladium, aluminum, tin, lead, platinum, nickel, zinc, and silver. However, recovery priority will change significantly due to variation in the composition of PCBs, choice of ranking metrics, and weighting factors when scoring multiple metrics. These results can be used by waste management decision-makers to quantify the value and environmental savings potential for recycling technology development and infrastructure. They can also be extended by policy-makers to inform possible penalties for land-filling PCBs or exporting to the informal recycling sector. The importance of weighting factors when examining recovery trade-offs, particularly for policies regarding PCB collection and recycling are explored further.
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