New recycling process saves valuable metals from e-waste

In response to the global e-waste problem that led to 45 million tonnes of waste in 2016 alone, University College Cork has launched a €1.4 million recycling project that could change the way we reclaim metals from discarded technology.

The project, called RecEOL, is designed to help decrease the amount of useful materials being thrown away. Many electronics contain valuable metals like copper, gold, and silver as well as ‘critical metals’ like indium and tantalum. Critical metals are essential for building high-technology and are valuable when reclaimed.

Today with recycled technology, only between 70 and 80 percent of the useful metals are saved. With the new patented process, up to 95 percent of copper, aluminum and other metals could be The technology would also be the first of its kind to be able to reclaim critical metals from printed circuit boards (PCBs) and liquid crystal displays (LCDs).

The objective of RecEOL is to observe and analyse the new recycling process and provide scientific evidence that it’s an effective use of time and resources. The eventual hope is to create a recycling plant using this new method.

RecEOL is co-funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and Geological Survey Ireland. The new recycling process was developed by UCC’s Dr Maria Sousa Gallagher and Dr Frank Riedewald from Cork’s Composite Recycling.

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