Researchers Tap Problematic E-Waste Surplus to Recover High-Quality Polymers


Mixed-plastic electronics waste could be a valuable source of reusable polymers, says a new study led by Illinois Sustainability Technology Center scientists. The team has developed the first energy-efficient and environmentally friendly process that separates mixed polymers so that they can be recycled into new, high-quality plastic products. Items like water bottles and milk jugs can be recycled easily because they are made from single polymers. The most efficient solvent methods in use today involve a chemical called DCM, which releases carcinogenic vapours into the air at near-room-temperature conditions. These vapours contaminate the workspace and introduce the potential for release into the atmosphere. But this process uses a solvent called NMP, which will only release vapours when heated to 180 degrees Celsius, far above the temperature needed to dissolve the polymers.