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What Are The Different Methods Used In Recycling E-Waste?

Author:Suny Group

E-waste generally consists of plastic or metal casings, electronic circuit boards (chips), batteries and wiring. E-waste recycling can be profitable as many devices contain precious metals like platinum, gold, silver, copper, tin, aluminium, but also rare earth metals. The recycling process at a professional recycling company usually consists of the following steps:

Sorting the devices

An e-waste recycler will generally sort devices by type first, because some devices may be reusable and because different devices require different methods of manual disassembly. 

Manual disassembly

Depending on the device, some manual disassembly may be done. For example batteries are removed, cartridges and toners are removed from printers, parts of TVs and monitors will be disassembled to remove the toxic lead and mercury that may be present.


Next the devices are generally shredded to pieces. Some recyclers first shred into fairly large pieces (about 10 cm). Then they remove toxic materials such as batteries and shred again into smaller pieces (of about 1 cm). Other recyclers immediately shred into small pieces.

Sorting the pieces

The shredded pieces are processed further using (a combination of) a number of methods; manual sorting, removing metals with a magnet, filtering materials based on density (using vibrating conveyor belts or centrifuges), identifying materials with infra-red light.

Removing contaminants

Extracted metals are generally treated with acid and smelted to remove contaminants. Some recyclers also sell glass and plastic pieces, but those are not always reusable and are often incinerated or dumped on landfills.


Sadly, the larger part of all e-waste is not recycled by a professional recycling companies. A lot of e-waste is dumped in landfills or (illegally) shipped to countries such as China, India or Ghana were people process the waste without proper equipment and protection. This usually leads to worker health problems and large environmental problems.