Recovering Plastics from Electronics Waste

  • Brian RiiseEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the The Minerals, Metals & Materials Series book series (MMMS)


We currently landfill or export approximately 1 million metric tons per year of the plastics that exist in electronic waste (e-waste) streams in the USA. Recycling these “e-plastics” domestically could help satisfy domestic demand for recycled plastics, while saving the energy equivalent of 13 million barrels of oil (by replacing virgin plastics with recycled plastics). Domestic recycling of e-plastics should also stabilize the economics for e-waste recycling, while eliminating some of the environmental risks associated with exporting e-plastics. In this presentation, we provide an overview of technologies that are already available to process e-plastics into valuable products. We also discuss remaining technical barriers and future developments that could allow us to achieve better quality and higher yields of e-plastics.


Plastics Recycling Electronics E-waste E-plastics WEEE 



This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) under the Advanced Manufacturing Office Award Number DE-EE0007897.

Disclaimer This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.


  1. 1.
    Babbitt C, Althaf S, Chenell R (2017) Sustainable materials management for the evolving consumer technology ecosystem. Summary report of phase 1 research. Development of a Sustainable Materials Management Modeling Framework and Baseline Model ResultsGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    The National Center for Electronics recycling maintains a website with a wide range of useful information about e-waste recycling, including links to information about state regulationsGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Sixth annual report of the ecycling leadership initiative. Report prepared for the Consumer Technology Association, April 2017Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Advancing Sustainable Materials Management (2015) Tables and figures—assessing trends in material generation, recycling, composting, combustion with energy recovery and landfilling in the United States. US EPA, July 2018Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Haig S, Morrish L, Morton R, Wilkinson S (2012) Electrical product material composition. Report prepared by Axion Consulting for the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), October 2012Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Baldé C, Forti V, Gray V, Kuehr R, Stegmann P (2017) The Global E-waste Monitor—2017, United Nations University (UNU), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) & International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), Bonn/Geneva/Vienna, p 64. ISBN Electronic Version: 978-92-808-9054-9Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Biddle MB, Dinger P, Fisher MM (1999) An overview of recycling plastics from durable goods: challenges and opportunities. In: IdentiPlast II conference proceedings, APME, Brussels, April 1999Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    From Green Fence to red alert: A China timeline. Plastics Recycling Update. February 14, 2018 and updated 2 July 2019Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Staub C (2019) Cambodia rejects 3.2 million pounds of scrap plastic. Plastics Recycling Update, 24 July 2019Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Staub S (2018) E-plastics market shift spawns domestic processing plant. Plastics Recycling Update, 31 Jan 2018Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Riise B, Gysbers J, Farling S, Dickenson J (2018) How to Progress on E-Plastics. Plastics Recycling Update. Published by Resource Recycling Inc., Summer 2018, pp 16–22Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Wäger PA, Hischier R (2015) Life cycle assessment of post-consumer plastics production from waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) treatment residues in a Central European plastics recycling plant. Sci Total Environ 529:158–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    REMADE Institute Project Impact Calculator. Accessed at Accessed on 26 Aug 2019
  14. 14.
    Domininghaus H (1988) Plastics for engineers: materials, properties, applications. Hanser, Cincinnati, OH, USAGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Scheirs J, Priddy D (eds) (2003) Modern styrenic polymers: polystyrenes and styrenic copolymers. Wiley, Chichester, EnglandGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    DecaBDE and BFR Substitution in the Electronics Industry (2006) Leading manufacturers are moving away from bromine chemistry in computers and televisions. Prepared by Clean Production Action, 15 Nov 2006Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Troitzch HJ (1993) Flame retardants. In: Gächter R, Müller H (eds) Chapter 12 in plastics additives, 4th edn. Hanser Publishers, MunichGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Innovative flame retardants in E&E applications: non-halogenated phosphorous, inorganic and nitrogen flame retardants. Phosphorus, Inorganic and Nitrogen Flame Retardants Association (PINFA), October 2017Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Birnbaum LS (2007). Health effects of brominated flame retardants (BFRs). In: Presented at 27th international symposium on halogenated persistent organic pollutants—Dioxin 2007, Tokyo, Japan, 2–7 Sept 2007Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    de Boer J, Wester PG, van der Horst A, Leonards PE (2003) Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in influents, suspended particulate matter, sediments, sewage treatment plant and effluents and biota from the Netherlands. Environ Pollut 122(1):63–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Weber R, Kuch B (2003) Relevance of BFRs and thermal conditions on the formation pathways of brominated and brominated-chlorinated dibenzodioxins and dibenzofurans. Environ Int 29(6):699–710CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Directive 2002/95/EC of the European Parliament on restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and Directive 2011/65/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2011 on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (recast)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Basel convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal. UNEP and the basel convention. Adopted in 1989 and it came into force in 1992Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Plastics from residential electronics recycling. Report 2000a summary report from the Electrical and Electronics Group of the American Plastics Council. Prepared by Headley Pratt Consulting for the American Plastics Council, April 2000Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Riise BL (2016) Plastics recovered from shredded waste electrical and electronic equipment. In: Paper presented at electronics & cars recycling WRF 2016, Macau, China, 15–18 Nov 2016Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Guidance on best available techniques and best environmental practices for the recycling and disposal of articles containing polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Prepared by UNIDO, UN, unitary, the Stockholm Convention and UNEP, 2012Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Pascoe RD (2000) Sorting of waste plastics for recycling. RAPRA Review Rep 11(14)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Inculet II, Castle GSP, Brown JD (1998) Electrostatic separation of plastics for recycling. Part Sci Technol 16(1):91–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Holmes M (2018) Recycling options gather pace. Compd World September 2018:55–62Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Holmes P (2019) Cleaning up in melt filtration. Compd World July 2019:27–36Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Riise BL, Fisher MM, Biddle MB (2000) X-Ray fluorescence spectroscopy in plastics recycling. In: Paper presented at 2000 world congress on integrated resource management (R’2000), Toronto, Canada, June 2000Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Schlummer M, Mäurer A, Leitner T, Spruzina W (2006) Report: recycling of flame-retarded plastics from waste electric and electronic equipment (WEEE). Waste Manage Res 24(6):573–583CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Wheeden G, Soepriatna N, Wang N-H (2015) Method for efficient recovery of high-purity polycarbonates from electronic waste. Environ Sci Technol 49:2425–2433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Chandrasekaran SR, Avasarala S, Murali D, Rajagopalan N, Sharma BK (2018) Materials and energy recovery from e-waste plastics. ACS Sustain Chem Eng 6(4):4594–4602CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.REMADE InstituteWest HenriettaUSA

Personalised recommendations