Review of the Electronic Business Related to Recovery of Precious Metals


Review of the Electronic Business Related to Recovery of PreciousMetals

Consumers electronic are an integral part of life and influence mostof the human activities and communication. Computer, televisions,DVDs, e-Readers and cell phones among others are equipment that manypeople can`t stay without in a day. Unfortunately, the lifespan ofthese technological products is short and become useless afterrelatively short periods of use. This is why technological companieskeep on launching new products that translate to producing moreelectronic waste. In the present day, U.S receives twenty-fivemillion tonnes of electronic wastes every year. This situation hasbeen a problem for both developed and developing nations (Namias,2013). Electronic wastes pose a danger from its components but alsooffer a venue for mining some precious metals such as gold andsilver. This paper provides a review of various aspects involved inthe electronic business related to the recovery of precious metalssuch as the need for public awareness, incentives, currenttechnologies involved and legislation.

The Need of Public Awareness

Governing authorities need to increase public awareness of theprevalent increase in recovery of precious metals from electronicwastes and effects (Zhan, 2012). The public tends to enjoy more ofthe tremendous improvements and achievements of technology at theirhands. Little do they know that they are a host of both hazardous andprecious material at the same time. As of 2013, fifty-eight percentof consumers knew where to take their end-of-life electronics fordisposal or recycle (Dev, 2014). The electronic industry would liketo see that percentage increase with increase in the level ofawareness. The society therefore needs awareness of the current trendrevolving the fast advancement of technology due to the constant needfor improvements and high performance tech products and itsinvolvement in massive amounts of electronic waste. Technologicalgadgets such as iPhone, computers, and tablets among others aresources of e-waste because they only produced for use in barely twoyears. Important to the public would be the fact that discarding ofthe no-longer-in –use electronics contain hazardous materials thatcan cause serious harm to health if carelessly tampered with.

The public needs more information on the valuable content in suchelectronics and the safer means to handle them. The electronic wasteposes a potential security threat particularly to exporting nationsand some individuals. For instance, improper erased hard drives, ondisposal with remnants data such as credit card number, records ofonline transactions and private financial data can be reopened toexpose such sensitive information that can cost one`s life. It worthyfor the public to note that when they are safe dealing withaccredited electronic recyclers who meet the safe standards to managethe electronics. It is the EPA`s and governing authorityresponsibility to ensure that the public is aware of the listed keyplayers in the industry as one way of guaranteeing safety, minimisingunnecessary accidents and upholding morality (Zhan, 2012). Consumersneed to know how to safely handle and dispose off the end-of-lifeelectronics.


The business of recovering precious metals from waste electronicsfaces a lot of ongoing challenges. However, respective bodies areplacing incentives mainly directed towards ensuring sustainability byachieving maximum benefits of this business of electronics andprotecting the surroundings and human health life (Meyers, 2012). Theneed for recycling the massive tonnes of the electronic wastesproduced to save Mother Nature directs to a single incentive of thisbusiness. Maintaining health status is a drive to the specialattention accorded to the components of electronic wastes. Economicmotivation is another factor influencing the business of electronicsgiven the fact that electronic wastes contain valuable metals thatcompete in the current market.

Government Initiatives

The EPA has endorsed E-Stewards and Responsible Recyclers Practicesto ensure easy monitoring of the set strict environmental standards.The two programmes work to reduce the exposure of electronic wastesto the environment or human health, to maximise of recycling andreusability of the products, to ensure safe management of thesubstances and absolute destruction of remnant data on theend-of-life electronics. The government has also employed the use ofprivate third party auditors to facilitate the compliance withspecific standards of electronic management and safe recycling(Meyers, 2012). The Sustainable Materials Management ElectronicChallenge is a government project established to challenge all theelectronic retailers and manufacturers to collect electronic wastesfrom various sites and send them to the accredited third-partyrecycler. The best performer gains public platform to report andpromote one hundred percent recycling responsibility for theirrespective companies.

Non-governmental Organisations

Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is an independent body formedin the U.S to urge and encourage consumers to properly dispose oftheir electronic wastes through their locator This body targets both manufactures andretailers to adhere to the strict third party accredited recyclinglocations as a mean of providing consumers an assurance that theirend-of –life electronics are responsibly and safely recycled. Anetwork retailers and manufactures in consumer electronics form anetwork that sponsors over five thousand recycling locationscountrywide and has targeted to recycle one billion pounds yearly by2016 (Lye, 2014). Electronic Industry Alliance through E-CyclingCentral offers a search platform for users to find recyclingprogrammes in their respective locations.

The Electronics Take-Back Coalition (ETBC) is a non-governmentalorganisation campaigns objected to limiting the environmental effectsand protecting human health at the electronic producing sites. EBTCfocuses on positioning responsibility for technological productsdisposal on the brand owners and manufactures via legal enforcementsand community promotions. Also, the campaign offers a list of thejudged environmentally responsible recyclers (Lye, 2014). SiliconValley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) centres on promotion of human healthand addressing environmental justice problems ensuing fromtechnological electronic toxics. The World Repair, Reuse andRecycling Association dedicate to improve the electronic expertsquality thereby inspiring better recycling standards duringimportation principles.

Current Sustainable and Eco-friendly Technologies for PreciousMetals Recovery

Electronics contain up to sixty different elements of both specialmetals and hazardous substances (Lye, 2014). This combinationincludes elements such as silver, gold, zinc, copper, iron, nickel,aluminium, beryllium, mercury, cadmium, chlorine, bromine, ceramics,plastics and glass among others. This nature of combinationattributes to the current advanced tools and techniques that functionwith consideration of engineering in environmental sustainability.The engineering of electronic business consists of collection,pre-processing and final processing. Common techniques involved inrecovering precious metals are pyrometallurgical processes,hydrometallurgical processes and bio metallurgical processes.

Italimpianti Orafi

Italimpianti Orafi is one of the current market technologies makingthe electronic business sustainable and eco-friendly. It combinesbest chemical techniques and close loop processes. It providesefficient recovery and excellent refining of all the valuable metalsincluding ruthenium and rhodium. After inserting the waste material,Italimpianti Orafi examines the substance metallurgy and customises aspecific recovery process to meet the required outcome (Namia, 2013).The method is known as classification which then follows, mechanicalprocessing, chemical stripping, milling, smelting and leachingenrichment and refining. The special unit referred to as the chemicalstripper functions to reduce all safety and environmental hazards byadding cyanide treatment installations and neutralisation. They workon the surfaces of the electronic waste material undergoing treatmentto remove metal surface into a solution. This technology commits toclosing the loop environmental process that complies with EPA, WEEEand other respective international regulations.

Tetronics` Plasma Recovery

Tetronics` Plasma Recovery is also among the latest international andlocal technologies in the recovery of precious materials. Thistechnology delivers state of the art smelting installations thatensure minimal harm to the surroundings and the people handling it(Rao, 2013). This technology holds exceptional commercial credentialsand environmental standards through records of high recoveryperformance from electronic wastes and practical experience from thetechnical ability to efficiently eliminate hazardous materials.Tetronics` Plasma Recovery is a technique that combines ultra-violetlight properties and heat that smelt different metals contained inthe electronic wastes while simultaneously destroying the hazardouselements. It collects the waste materials from this process into achamber that vitrifies and resells the product as Plasmarok thereforecontributing to the conversation of natural resources.


The eVOLV technology from ATMI Ltd presents yet another sustainablesolution for the electronic waste recycling. It uses a closed-loopsystem scalar and automated energy efficient methods that recovermetal resources from the electronic circuits and motherboards. Thebeauty of this technology is that it employs the twelve principles ofgreen engineering chemistry from Warner Babcock Institute to developprocedures that are non-toxic and chemical-based approaches that areenvironmentally benign. The recovery process comprises ofde-soldering, chip-recovery and full metal reclaim with a successrate of 99%. Unlike other traditional processes, eVOLV recovers andredeploys gold, copper, silver, tin, lead and palladium safer andfaster (Khaliq, 2014). The corporation and the functionality of eVOLVprocess relay environmental impactful presence in the industry andcomply with the updated restrictions of the surroundings concerningdisposal and recycling of electronic wastes.

Current Legislation and the Regulation covering the e-ScrapeBusiness

Currently there is no federal legislation affecting and mandating thebusiness of precious metal recovery from electronics business in theU.S. Presently, the U.S is considering few numbers of bills onelectronic wastes comprising of the National Computer Recycling Act(Zhang, 2012). Consumer Electronic Association represents severaltrade organisations that are lobbying for the passing ofcomprehensive national laws concerning the recycle and disposal o felectronic wastes. The House of Science and Technology Committeeaccredited sponsoring a research on electronic waste reduction andmitigation of environmental impact as the first direct bill to thefederal bill addressing. The Electronic Device Recycling Research andDevelopment Act was proposed in 2009 to call for sustainable designsof electronic equipment that would reduce toxic waste, recycle, reuseand promote safe and health standards and to stop illegal damping ofelectronic wastes.

The major federal law governs solid wastes through the ResourceConservation and Recovery Act enacted in 1976 but only covers CRT(Cui and Zhang, 2014). However, some states have started banning thedisposal of electronic wastes into landfills in a bid to actresponsibly towards environmental sustainability. For instance, theColorado state becomes the eighteenth state to prohibit electronicwaste from reaching the landfills and incinerators. Similarly, otherstates follow the move and are working towards improving and passingnew laws that will ensure public health and safety. Also, the laws ofbattery disposals vary from one state to another. The EPA is callingfor permissions from the government to grant merit-basedorganisations such as government labs, consortia universities andprivate industries allowance to conduct researches directed towardsthe means of establishing new approaches to reduction and recyclingof hazardous electronic wastes. The Congress budget office estimatesgranting approximately ninety million for design and engineeringdevelopment spread over the period of the years 2010 and 2014(Meyers, 2012).


Generation of electronic wastes needs immediate approaches designedto successful management of safe disposal and efficient recycling ofthe reusable materials. The public is in much contact with bothfunctional and end-of-life electronics. Relevant authorities need toinform the public of the risks associated with the electronic wastesand ways, in which they can handle them safely, dispose or recycle.Both the government and the non-governmental organisations play asignificant role in creating awareness and encouraging maximumbenefits and health in dealing with electronic wastes. ItalimpiantiOrafi, Tetronics` Plasma Recovery and eVOLV technology from ATMI Ltdcollectively prove to be latest dependable technologies in recoveringprecious metals effectively, sustainably as well as beingeco-friendly. Although there are no specific legislation andregulations affecting the business of the recovery of preciousmetals, the set networks and bills provide viable movements that willsoon and finally pass laws to govern the same.


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