First Successful Steps in Discovering Plastics in Electronic Waste

Nov 29, 2017 · 3 min read

As part of the Horizon 2020 project, PolyCE, the teams behind the Italian household appliance recovery and recycling consortium ECODOM, and KU Leuven — University of Leuven are performing sampling operations to discover the plastic composition of electronic waste.

The Challenge

Plastic types and additives used in electronic and electrical equipment vary substantially among product categories, as well as among products of the same category, due to legislative and technical requirements and/or manufacturers’ preferences. Since results of experiments performed in prior research have demonstrated that the plastic types and additives used are very different, the challenge is to identify the average plastic composition of the main plastic components per product family.

In other words, plastic materials used in manufacturing personal computers vary substantially from plastics found in vacuum cleaners and other consumer electronics. So far, this has posed significant challenges for the separate collection and recycling of plastics found in electronic waste (e-plastics) and, ultimately, for the inclusion of this specific waste stream in the Circular Economy.

PolyCE’s Solution

The European Union-funded project PolyCE (Post-Consumer High Tech Recycled Polymers for the Circular Economy) brings together 20 expert organisations that have taken on the challenge to transform the lifecycle of e-plastic materials into a more sustainable process. To identify the main polymers per families of product, two project partners from PolyCE joined forces in Italy to perform a sampling and analysis campaign on different electronic waste products. The activities performed are as follows:

1. Sampling

ECODOM is performing sampling operations in a WEEE treatment operators for identifying the plastic in different waste streams. The sampling consists of the following phases:

o selecting which e-waste families to analyse;

o getting one plastic sample of the main components of each e-waste selected;

o recording properties of the selected e-waste (brand, type of product, sampled component, and model number).

Samples of different e-waste plastic types as produced by ECODOM

2. Analysis

The collected samples were shipped to KU Leuven — University of Leuven where a team of researchers will test the collected samples to discover the polymer types. KU Leuven — University of Leuven, Department of Mechanical Engineering Faculty of Engineering & Engineering Technology, will analyse the plastic samples to gather information about the polymers used. For this analysis, Fourier transformation infrared spectrometry, in combination with X-ray fluorescence measurements, will be performed.


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@EU_H2020 Project enabling #recycling of #plastics from #electronicwaste for a more #sustainable future. #InvestEUresearch #ChooseRecycled

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