Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MIT: recycling of scrapped electronics studied

08.10.2004


MIT researchers have developed new metrics for assessing the performance of firms that recycle scrapped electronic equipment, a major source of toxic pollutants.



The metrics focus not just on how much of a firm’s incoming waste is processed but also on the quality and reusability of the materials produced from it, a consideration critical to overall resource efficiency.

To assess the performance of electronics recycling firms, people have focused mainly on the most easily measured indicator: the fraction of a firm’s incoming waste stream that ends up as landfill. But minimizing landfill is not enough, according to the MIT researchers.


"Recycling companies will tell their customers, ’Virtually none of your material is going to landfill.’ While we recognize that that’s important, we also know that not all end uses are equal," said Randolph E. Kirchain Jr., an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Engineering Systems Division. "For example, it’s preferable to take a pound of recovered plastic and use it to make new components than to use it as roadbed filler."

The quality of the recovered material determines its potential uses. If the quality is sufficiently high, the material can be reused by manufacturers, reducing the need to extract and consume new materials.

Almost a billion obsolete computers and other electronic devices are scrapped each year, and four out of five of them end up in basements or on sidewalks rather than in recycling facilities. But the electronics recycling business is expected to grow quickly. Regulations on handling large-scale electronics waste streams are becoming more stringent, and public concern is growing about the shipping of electronics to countries not equipped to handle toxic and hazardous materials.

Kirchain worked with Frank Field III, a senior research associate in the Center for Technology, Policy and Industrial Development, and Jennifer R. Atlee, a graduate student in the Engineering Systems Division, and colleagues in the Materials Systems Laboratory to develop measures of assessing electronics recycling firms. The team drew on its 10 years’ experience studying another recycling industry--automobiles.

To identify recycling firms and processes that achieve good materials recovery, the researchers use price as an indicator of quality. "We hypothesize that the price that’s received for those [recovered] materials is an indicator of the quality of the materials. A buyer will pay more for materials they can use in manufacturing components than for materials going into a roadbed," said Kirchain.

They also used two value-based metrics-value retention and value-added. Value retention measures how well the value of materials is maintained all the way from their first use to their recovery. Value added compares the price of the recovered material to the price the recycler paid or was paid to take it away.

In case studies of three U.S. firms, the researchers found that the value-based metrics worked well and were easy to use. The researchers stress that their materials-only analysis is just a baseline and does not incorporate the effect of device or component reuse. They also note that other criteria could be used to assess the performance of recyclers. Examples include toxicity, emissions, energy use, and operating costs. In the long run, a variety of independent metrics could lead to significant improvements in recycling efficiency.

"We’re interested in measures of performance that will lead to the best electronics-recycling practices. But if we really understand the recycling process, we may also be able to help manufacturers of original equipment make design and materials choices that will make recovering, recycling, and reusing materials less expensive," said Kirchain.

This research marks the beginning of a long-term MIT effort to develop analytical methods and tools that the electronics industry can use to identify and select materials, product designs and process technologies that will improve the sustainability of materials use. It was supported by the Alliance for Global Sustainability.

Nancy Stauffer | MIT News Office
Further information:
http://ww.mit.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists team up on study to save endangered African penguins
16.11.2017 | Florida Atlantic University

nachricht Climate change: Urban trees are growing faster worldwide
13.11.2017 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>