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New Technique for Recycling PCBs

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the use-and-use-again dept.

Businesses 77

MattSparkes writes "PCBs from discarded computers, cellphones and other devices could be recycled less harmfully using a technique developed by researchers in China. Unlike current methods, it can be used to reclaim metals such as copper without releasing toxic fumes into the air. Only a small numbers of PCBs are currently recycled."

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Going green (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191622)

Al Gore ftw

Re:Going green (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191794)

Dude, this process creates more global warming!

My Penis (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191626)

Lick my big, wet penis.

2nd! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191630)

2nd! Second! El Segundo!

Damn those lucky Chinese (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191652)

I wish we had more PCBs around to discover things about. Guess we sent all our PCBs to China.

Acronym collision (3, Informative)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192628)

As usual, no acronym may ever be expanded, nor definition given, nor even enough info to get a clue, in a Slashdot story summary. The summary needs to somehow clarify that we are discussing Printed Circuit Boards, and not PolyChlorinated Biphenyls. Really big difference, and both are environmental/technological issues, but orders of magnitude different in impact.

Re:Acronym collision (1)

Random Destruction (866027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192938)

Unlike current methods, it can be used to reclaim metals such as copper without releasing toxic fumes into the air.
There's your hint.

Re:Acronym collision (1)

Shatrat (855151) | more than 7 years ago | (#18196258)

I knew which they were referring to without reading the summary, let alone the article.
I suspect you did as well, isn't that good enough?

Re:Acronym collision (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18198632)

I knew which they were referring to without reading the summary, let alone the article.

Having a narrow field of interest, such as in electronics, one may readily conclude "PCBs" mean "printed circuit boards". However if some knows or has a wider field of interest then no, it isn't really possible to know what they mean by "PCBs". For instance I have an interest in the Inuits of northern Canada, and PCBs are building up in the blood of Inuits causing health issues. The Monodon monoceros [cms.int] or norwhale which the Inuit hunt for sustenance bioaccumulates PCBs from the prey they consume. PCBs end up it mother's milk thus in babies when they drink the milk. Polar bears [wikipedia.org] are also showing high levels of PCBs in them. Another whale showing high levels are the Orca or Killer Whales [nwsource.com] of Pugot Sound.

So it's not really easy to know what is meant by the use of "PCB" without at least a summary. Now maybe not everyone knows this, but some do. I've learned of it, PCBs in whales, from my interest interest in marine biology. In high school, it was a hard decision what career field to go into, after taking both a programming and a marine biology class it was either marine science or computer engineering.

Falcon

Re:Acronym collision (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18196436)

Context dumbass, there's no metal in polychlorinated biphenyls;
they also aren't in major production anymore.

Bulding materials? (4, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191668)

They want to compact & use the non-metallic parts as building materials.

This raises the question: Will there still be toxins in these compacted objects? And will they come out when the structure is eventually demolished?

Even concrete has all kinds of nasty that leeches out when you turn it into a pile of rubble.

Re:Bulding materials? (1, Informative)

dido (9125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191854)

The plastic used for most PCB's is polyvinyl chloride, which in itself isn't particularly toxic under most circumstances. It's in common use these days for plumbing fixtures and the like, as well as for PCB's. However, if you burn PVC plastic, it gets converted into some particularly nasty dioxins and furans which are dangerously carcinogenic.

Re:Bulding materials? (2, Interesting)

PC-PHIX (888080) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191912)

However, if you burn PVC plastic, it gets converted into some particularly nasty dioxins and furans which are dangerously carcinogenic.

Thus, if you happen to be inside one of these buildings when they catch fire, you are really screwed!

Re:Bulding materials? (4, Funny)

Threni (635302) | more than 7 years ago | (#18193240)

> Thus, if you happen to be inside one of these buildings when they catch fire, you are really screwed!

Yes, if you ever find yourself inside a burning building, my advice to you is to get out immediately.

Re:Bulding materials? (1)

myth_of_sisyphus (818378) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191934)

I read an article in Harper's Magazine about a bunch of people living in a garbage dump in the Philippines. The kids gather all the computers into a pile and then light it on fire. They stand around the fire and poke it so everything plastic burns. Then they gather the metal components and sell them. And if that isn't bad enough, the garbage sometimes falls over and kills 200 people living in garbage huts underneath!

Re:Bulding materials? (3, Interesting)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192588)

In the Philippines they really only burn insulated wire, car tyres, and anything with springs like beds and chairs. Electronics rarely make it to the dump sites these days, too much value to be thrown away, they usually end up in repair shops, stripped for spares. (I do a lot of work for a charity here on Smokey Mountain dump site in Manila)

You are right about the garbage falls, though it's usually the land slides that take out 200 people or more at a time.

Re:Bulding materials? (2, Informative)

myth_of_sisyphus (818378) | more than 7 years ago | (#18197202)

Here is the article:

http://harpers.org/TheMagicMountain.html [harpers.org]

It's a fascinating look at the underworld of the Garbage Dwellers. It's really sad, horrible, horripilating, and awful.

The author says a recent garbagefall killed hundreds of people. And you're right: the people burn insulation off wires. Which still produces dioxins and carcinogens.

An excerpt:

Wandering from pile to pile, calling out, "Piyesa! Piyesa!" (Parts! Parts!), are brokers of electronic and computer components, a new and lucrative category of waste. I ask Bobby what's worth the most, and he replies without hesitating, "Epson." An empty refillable printer cartridge in working condition can go for as much as 350 pesos. Bobby knows the prices for all these, too: Monitor, 50 pesos. Motherboard, 30. Circuit boards for 25 a kilo, to be melted down for trace amounts of gold. Pentium chips, if the pins can be straightened, 50.

Re:Bulding materials? (4, Informative)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191946)

The plastic used for most PCB's is polyvinyl chloride
No it isn't. PCBs are made either from glass fibre (FR4) or resin-bonded fabric (CEM1). PVC would soften too much at soldering temperatures.

Re:Bulding materials? (4, Interesting)

dido (9125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192062)

Right, now that I've looked it up, but the issues are still the same it would seem. Burning these types of boards to get at the metal is still something that you really don't want to do. They typically use brominated flame retardants [wikipedia.org] on these boards, which while they are generally inert and non-poisonous in their normal state, when burned they also produce deadly carcinogenic fumes, especially in the presence of copper [haloclean.com] . That makes that ingenious technique described in the article all the more useful: it separates the metallic and non-metallic components without burning.

Re:Bulding materials? (2, Interesting)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192304)

Well, the whole point is they're designed not to burn! Under fault conditions, electronic apparatus usually overheats; and the last thing you want it bursting into flames. PCB board, when it gets hot, generally just tends to smoulder a bit and cut off its own air supply. Usually, it's the overheating component that fails first; and once it goes open-circuit, the heat source is removed and the unpleasant fumes stop.

Pasta PCB (2, Interesting)

iangoldby (552781) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192362)

This reminds me of a story I heard about printing circuits on a sheet of pasta.

Pasta PCB [sciencemuseum.org.uk]

Once the protective coating is removed, the board quickly biodegrades, and the ICs and metal coatings can be easily reclaimed.

And here's a Pretty pasta picture [bbc.co.uk]

Re:Bulding materials? (1)

dmayle (200765) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192358)

Eeeeeek!

I repeat, Eeeeeek!

All those lovely cancer causing fumes, sure we don't release them because we turn them into building materiel.

But... What happens when your neighbor's house built of this stuff catches fire? Sure, it's not something that happens often on the time scale of an individual, but when you consider the number of buildings as a whole, buildings burning down happens pretty damn often...

Re:Bulding materials? (1)

smithmc (451373) | more than 7 years ago | (#18198696)


  But... What happens when your neighbor's house built of this stuff catches fire? Sure, it's not something that happens often on the time scale of an individual, but when you consider the number of buildings as a whole, buildings burning down happens pretty damn often...

Not nearly as often as PCs get thrown into landfills...

That's better. (4, Interesting)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191796)

I was getting tired of all the fear-mongering with regard to China. It's nice to see the editors pull up something positive about our neighbors to the East.


-FL

Re:That's better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18192192)

I wholeheartedly agree. I guess it's easier for many to see China only as an evil Communist threat than the progressive and modern country it is these days.

Re:That's better. (2, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 7 years ago | (#18193946)

"I was getting tired of all the fear-mongering with regard to China."

The copper reclaimed from the circuit boards is being machined into shaped charge projectiles by the Sino-Jihadist Internationale, a shadowy Islamo-Maoist group. Just when we thought the Yellow Peril had receded, it reappears in a slightly browner incarnation.

Re:That's better. (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 7 years ago | (#18200136)

Wait, come back! I'd like to hear from whoever modded this "Flamebait" which part of the joke they didn't get. I don't care about the moderation, but WTF?

Re:That's better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18200890)

You're just not a very amusing fellow. We saw your attempt at a joke, but it didn't make us laugh. Your idea was lame and the delivery was terrible. You are useless.

see if im a nutjob. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191800)

R remember reading something years ago on /. as well as a few other sites.

The majority of the dust that appears on the surface of a PCB board (especially particular mainboards) are as bad if not more than asbestos.

If that isn't as tinfoil hat enough for you, this is another fucked up thing I read. There is a chemical that the PCB board is dipped in a few times throuought the process of making the boards layers and that chemical is what causes that type of dust to be created on the surface of the PCB-- but, they could have as easily been using a non-toxic fluid that would have been less expensive and not created the toxic 'dust' strands.

I, myself being a computer tech at random computer stores since I was 14, I found it to be a fucked up reading experience considering that I had my hands in it all day long and I at least remember reading it since the age of 17, several times.

How about... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191818)

someone recycling PHB's. Preferably into something useful.

Re:How about... (1)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192762)

What about PCP? It'd be great if we could get more of that through recycling the used stuff.

Recycling (2, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191876)

Only a small numbers of PCBs are currently recycled.
Large quantities are being shipped to China for stripping of components and recovery of the copper. Especially now the copper price is so high. So I don't believe just a small number is being recycled - in the USA maybe, but not world wide!

Wouter.

Re:Recycling (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18192436)

Actually there are regulation in China that prevents old PCB from being imported into China on fear of China being dumping ground. Getting China set up as repair depot was (is?) a headache because of that.

Also China is following EU into having their own RoHS program effectively banning PCB made with toxic metals which most older PCB contains.

On the other hand, this would still help China in recycling PCB that is already there.

Re:Recycling (2, Informative)

lxt518052 (720422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192822)

I think the Chinese government's concern is not unjustified.

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-05/2 4/content_445129.htm [chinadaily.com.cn]

Hi-tech waste being smuggled into China has caused big pollution because the method used to recycle them. Recycling is a generally good thing, but not so if the process actually causes harm to the local residents.

I think those waste exporters in developed countries are rather selfish in moving the problem to China and India, although it comes at no surprise to me in that the west is always doing so and pointing fingers at the developing countries.

The SJTU's researcher is doing a good job. Congratualtions! Keep it up!

China and Tiananmen Square (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18197768)

People who dislike China tend to mention Tiananmen Square a lot, but they always forget the Tank Man is also a Chinese.

Some who like China also talk of Tiananmen Square [wikipedia.org] , as well as how 2 million Nationists Chinese led by Chiang Kai-shek [wikipedia.org] invaded and subjegated 20 million on the island called Formosa [wikipedia.org] , meaning "beautiful island", by the Portuguese but now called Taiwan. After the invasion Formosans had their own version of the Holocaust, 28 February 1947 [taiwandc.org] , which led to the massive slaughter of thousands of Taiwanese at the hands of Chiang Kai-shek's Chinese troops. Both sides in China have a bloody history.

Also, did you know Mao and Chiang and got started in the same political party? They both were members of Sun Yat-sen's [time.com] Nationalist Party. They were also related by marriage to each other. Both married daughters of the Soong family.

Falcon

Re:China and Tiananmen Square (1)

lxt518052 (720422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18199530)

Get your facts straight first if you want convince people you actually know what you're talking about.

The population of Taiwan IS about 23 million at the moment, minus 2 million mainland immigrants - that's 1 million. Are you saying after 60 some years since Japan handed back Taiwan to Chiang's government after WWII, the net population growth is only 1 million?

If the KMT government was so bad as to cause the population stop growing, how come its economy took off and became one of the Asian Dragons, together with Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore, since the 80s?

The February 28 Incident was a very complicate historical event happened in a very difficult times. To say it was the mainlanders killing Taiwanese is too much oversimplification. Various elements had played into it, including corruption of the KMT officials, insurgent movement lead by Chinese communists, white terror under the KMT rule and sabotage by surrenderred Japanese colonists. The first 3 were all not unique to Taiwan, hundreds of thousands were killed in the mainland in conflicts between KMT and the communists. In fact, even in that incident along, no less mainlanders were killed than the locals. According to the recent investigation carried out under the current DPP government, who took office in 2000 replacing the KMT, both sides have around 800 casualties. The DPP has long been KMT's political rival and the 228 Incident has always been used as a political weapon against KMT. If there had really been thousands locals killed, it would've been in the investigation report.

The truth about the 228 Incident has been studied very well in the past 20 or so years. Movies have been made about it, scholarly books written and independent investigation carried out. Yet because of the politics inside Taiwan, it has been played into a one-sided story, even as a tool to spread hatred among the voters, in order for some parties to gain advantage in elections.

I'm not trying to explain the whole thing here. It's so much more than what can be explained in a post. What I'm trying to do is to ask you to refrain from making moral judgement based on one-sided statements. History has much more than that.

The other thing I'd like to point out here is that Mao and Chiang are not related by marriage. Mao is married to Jiang Qing. Chiang's wife was Soong May-ling. Sun Yat-sen, on the other hand, did marry Soong May-ling's big sister Soong Ching-ling. This is not such an important fact. But I strongly doubt someone who don't know this would have much creditability in modern Chinese history.

Also, the fact Mao and Chiang were comrade once was because Sun Yat-sen saw USSR as an ally in fighting imperialism and KMT opened its door to accept communist party members as its member. This however ended in 1927 when Chiang started to purge communists and the aftermath of this break-up had dominated the course of Chinese history for over half a century.

Formosa and Mao (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18200706)

Get your facts straight first if you want convince people you actually know what you're talking about.

I did not provide any facts I didn't include a link to where I got the data.

The population of Taiwan IS about 23 million at the moment, minus 2 million mainland immigrants - that's 1 million. Are you saying after 60 some years since Japan handed back Taiwan to Chiang's government after WWII, the net population growth is only 1 million?

Secondly, nowhere did I give any numbers other than "thousands" or "28 February 1947", so you're wrong if you think I said anything about Taiwan's net population growth. Can you please point out where you get the impression I did say it?

If the KMT government was so bad as to cause the population stop growing, how come its economy took off and became one of the Asian Dragons, together with Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore, since the 80s?

Notice the respective dates: 28 Febuary 1947 and 1980s. The first is more than 30 year before the second. A lot can happen in 30 years.

I'm not trying to explain the whole thing here. It's so much more than what can be explained in a post. What I'm trying to do is to ask you to refrain from making moral judgement based on one-sided statements. History has much more than that.

The only tyme I made a moral judgement was when I said "Both sides in China have a bloody history. [slashdot.org] " Saying both sides were bloody IS NOT one sided. Can you point out where anywhere else I made a moral judgement?

The other thing I'd like to point out here is that Mao and Chiang are not related by marriage. Mao is married to Jiang Qing. Chiang's wife was Soong May-ling. Sun Yat-sen, on the other hand, did marry Soong May-ling's big sister Soong Ching-ling.

You may have me here, I thought I read somewhere where Mao had married a Soong daughter. But after reading your post I googled and didn't find anything about him marrying a Soong as well, only that he had 4 wives, Yang Kaihui, He Zizhen, and Jiang Qing [wikipedia.org] being the fourth. So in this at least, thanks for the correction.

Falcon

Re:Recycling (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18197342)

Large quantities are being shipped to China for stripping of components and recovery of the copper. Especially now the copper price is so high. So I don't believe just a small number is being recycled - in the USA maybe, but not world wide!

Another thing that needs to be recycled more are cellphones. Many electronics gadgets, especially cellphones [bbc.co.uk] , use coltan [wikipedia.org] , and mining of coltan is fueling the conflict or fighting and war along with the dissemination of gorillas in the Congo. That new movie out about conflict diamonds can easily be applied to coltan mining in the Congo [bbc.co.uk] . Allafrica.com [allafrica.com] has had some good coverage of this.

Falcon

PCBs (1)

asifyoucare (302582) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191900)

PCBs - You mean printed circuit boards? It'd also be nice if we could recycle polychlorinated biphenyls (or if the Linux kernel could recycle process control blocks).

Re:PCBs (1)

westcoaster004 (893514) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191992)

It would be nice if we could just keep polychlorinated biphenyls out of the environment in the first place.

Re:PCBs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18192044)

You act as if AO is a new thing.

Re:PCBs (1)

phobos13013 (813040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18193124)

I dont think printed circuit boards should be allowed to use the acronym PCB, its way too confusing. I just circulated this article to about 20 different experts and journals thinking they were talking about poly-chlorinated bi-phenyls.

What?! I read slashdot, did you really expect me to RFA?!?!

Prediction (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191918)

We will be mining the landfills as soon as it becomes economically feasible. I think this will happen within a decade or so. They're full of tons of stuff we threw away before extracting all of the usefulness. It's metal-rich sludge full of useful organic matter to power the nanodigesters (or whatever we have to invent).

Not that you shouldn't recycle your aluminum and steel cans today.

Re:Prediction (1)

TheSexican (796334) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192268)

I have been saying this exact same thing for a few years. There is so much useful material that we have thrown away and at such high concentrations that this should seem like a logical, and profitable, step in the cleanup of our planet.

Re:Prediction (3, Insightful)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 7 years ago | (#18193294)

Me too, but most with regard to all of the barely used nuclear fuel rods languishing at reactors all over the country. There's a ton of energy left in them, and by burning up the actinides you're left with waste that's 'hot' for a faction of the time. From this Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] :

Compared to current light-water reactors with a once-through fuel cycle that uses less than 1% of the energy in the uranium, the IFR has a very efficient (99.5% usage) fuel cycle.
and

Another important benefit of removing the long half-life transuranics from the waste cycle is that the remaining waste becomes a much shorter-term hazard. After the actinides and transuranics are removed from the spent fuel, the remaining waste elements have half lives of a few decades at most. The result is that within 300 years, such wastes are no more radioactive than the ores of natural radioactive elements.

This interview [nationalcenter.org] with George S. Stanford, Ph.D highlights the history and potential on IFR's.

fast breeder reactors (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 7 years ago | (#18197956)

Me too, but most with regard to all of the barely used nuclear fuel rods languishing at reactors all over the country. There's a ton of energy left in them, and by burning up the actinides you're left with waste that's 'hot' for a faction of the time.

IEEE's magazine "Spectrum" has a good article on this, dealing with France's Nuclear Wasteland [ieee.org] . The article also points out the problems with reprocessing.

Falcon

Digging up the landfill years later (2, Insightful)

lxt518052 (720422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192752)

is not a good idea if the toxic waste has already polluted soil and underground water system.

UK WEEE requires electroincs recycling soon. (2, Insightful)

throwaway18 (521472) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192064)

I'm currently trying to make sense of the WEEE regulations. UK businesses that supply electronic products are required to register with a waste collection and recycling scheme by the 15th of march if they fall into vaguely defined categories covering most consumer products and some other stuff. A few months after that suppliers have to start taking back unwanted electronics.

The intention is the push the costs of disposal back to the manufacturer.
A director of a UK manufacturing company told me recently that the extra costs for him amount to 18% of turnover for no practical benefit.

It seems to be a full employment scheme for lawyers and beaurocrats. After reading lots of conflicting information on the web I tried reading the act of parliament that implements the European directive and was even more confused and outraged afterwards.
I'm sure there are lots of cases where people can argue over whether their product falss into the vaguely defined categories.

This is on top of CE marking, EMC, and ROHS. I'v seen companys discontinue products because it is just not worth the cost of redesigning to not use lead solder and other non-rohs stuff. With WEEE on top niche market electronics manufacturers just took a big hit.
Consideirng how easy it is to buy very very cheap, non-CE marked electronics direct from Hong Kong via ebay I worry about whats left of UK electronics manufacturing. It's been decimated by pacific rim competition over the last ten years already.

Re:UK WEEE requires electroincs recycling soon. (2, Insightful)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192392)

A director of a UK manufacturing company told me recently that the extra costs for him amount to 18% of turnover for no practical benefit.

No practical benefit? I'd think that proper disposal and recycling of his company's products is a practical benefit for society-at-large. It might even encourage the company to design products with a lower total life-cycle cost.

Re:UK WEEE requires electroincs recycling soon. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18192530)

EXACTLY! It's the long term big picture that things like that are aimed at simply because the current system is totally unsustainable, it might not be the best solution but something has to be done to encourage manufacturers to make gear that is easily recyclable if they arn't going to make gear that lasts a decent length of time. I mean they've had it pretty easy so far on the whole junk electronics thing and typically enough very few if any of them have taken much responsibility for it, I mean it obviously hurts the bottom line and the Investors so they're going to milk it as long as they're allowed to. This is one of the fundamental flaws in raw Capitalism IMHO

Re:UK WEEE requires electroincs recycling soon. (1)

mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18194512)

The one thing that really gets to me about modern electronics, in particular LCD screens for laptops, is the fragility of the fluorescent tube, and that there is no simple way of replacing this component if it breaks.

The actual component cost is around $80, but combined with the LCD screen itself amounts to $1200 or nearly 75% of the price of the laptop.

How difficult could it be to have a fluorescent tube/holder that could be slotted sideways out of LCD screen and replaced in a similar way?

I'd like to see someone design a laptop where every component could be replaced simply by removing a single cover. Modern laptops allow this to be done with the DVD, battery, PCI cards, keyboard, mouse, speakers, RAM, LCD rectifier, disk drive, so there are just a few components to go (CPU/GPU). And maybe have a standard set of faceplates/covers (like mobile phones) so someone could customize their
laptops.

Re:UK WEEE requires electroincs recycling soon. (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18203072)

The actual component cost is around $80, but combined with the LCD screen itself amounts to $1200

Considering that you can buy brand new laptops for ~$600 today I doubt the LCD screen costs that much anymore.

Still, I imagine that there are alignment issues; IE making the tube easy to replace would make it more expensive and actually more likely to fail over the expected lifetime of the laptop.

As for the whole recycling issue; I kinda agree with the others that we're probably better off dumping the stuff into landfills until our technology reaches the point that it's profitable to recycle the stuff in a safe manner. I don't imagine that there's enough precious metal in your standard computer to justify shipping it all the way to china from the USA to recycle it. Thus, it may be that the only reason they're recycling stuff in such an unsafe mannor is because recycling is subsidized so it becomes profitable.

Now, bonuses for making your product easier to recycle would make sense.

Re:UK WEEE requires electroincs recycling soon. (1)

mikael (484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18206594)

Considering that you can buy brand new laptops for ~$600 today I doubt the LCD screen costs that much anymore.

Replacement LCD unit (16TFT-UXGA-HIXS) for a Sony laptop from NextTronics (Sony's component supplier)

Product listing [nexttronicsparts.com]

Price $699.95
Core Charge: $755

For ~$700.00, they will part exchange your old LCD display with a replacement. Fail to return the
old LCD display, and you pay another $755. This makes the price of the display effectively $1400 (about half the price of the whole system).

Re:UK WEEE requires electroincs recycling soon. (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18213374)

A dell inspirion starts at $599. [dell.com]

But you're talking about retail vs OEM. It's kinda like how a car is actually worth more parted out than sold as a single unit.

It's probably also a much better unit than the 15" model on the $600 laptop.

Re:UK WEEE requires electroincs recycling soon. (1)

squizzar (1031726) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192838)

Another side effect of this is that people don't seem to want to give stuff away any more. I'm not sure if its WEEE, but there's some bit of legislation about waste disposal that means my University will not give away old computers and parts. I'd like to see them given away to students (particularly those for whom a reasonably good computer is hard to afford), or maybe given to local schools etc. Or even reused in different departments - most of the uni computing facilities are nowhere near as good as the lab machines the CS department chucked out a couple of years ago. But instead they are taken away and their disassembly and destruction catalogued - in the name of preserving the environment!

I can see that there is an obvious scam potential - dump all of your old computer stock on some unsuspecting school, and leave them with the problem of disposal - but it seems like a waste of useful resources. Maybe they should take them away on slow moving open backed lorries or something...

Re:UK WEEE requires electroincs recycling soon. (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18203088)

Talk about violating the idea of saving the enviroment...

My training:
Reduce - If you don't need to use 2 gallons, don't. If possible, use a friendlier substance over an unfriendly one. IE soap & water rather than a petrol based cleaner
Reuse - If it's still good, keep using it. Use reusable parts when possible rather than disposables
Recycle - After the first two have been done, if possible, recycle the items rather than simply throwing them away.

Education about Recycling (1)

TheSexican (796334) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192210)

I think that while finding new ways to recycle old computer parts and PCBs is still a good idea, educating the public about how and where to take their old computer parts is probably money equally well spent. I know that I have often just tossed old computer cards and whatnot that I would have preferrably recycled, for a simple lack of knowledge as to where to take them.

Burning hydrocarbons makes no sense. (1)

notoriou5 (956084) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192220)

Sure, we can mash up some circuit boards and make something. Burning them is silly. I would rather smoke crack than PVC.

Re:Burning hydrocarbons makes no sense. (1)

Emetophobe (878584) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192338)

Sure, we can mash up some circuit boards and make something. Burning them is silly.
Tell that to the poor people that are doing just that. http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsi d=81450 [expressindia.com] I saw a documentary about it a few years ago, people melting/burning PCBs for the copper/gold/whatever metal they can get their hands on. I saw women and kids burning old computer boards, they didn't seem to care that they were hovering right above the flames, inhaling the thick black smoke. I wish I could find some pictures, it was rather disturbing.

Follow up (3, Informative)

Emetophobe (878584) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192372)

I happened to find a good story with a few pictures. http://www.ban.org/Library/ghosts_in.html [ban.org]

Here's a choice quote:

Every year Guiyu takes in more than a million tonnes of computer waste, earning its residents, according to mainland press reports, RMB1 billion. All day, every day, mountains of wire and other equipment are burned in Guiyu's streets to obtain copper and other scrap metals. Printed circuit boards are heated over charcoal burners to liberate them of computer chips that might be reusable. The boards are then soaked in acid to extract gold, and the waste dumped alongside or in the nearby Lianjiang River. Printer cartridges are ripped apart for their toner and recyclable aluminium, steel and plastic parts. Cathode-ray tubes are hammered open for their copper yokes.

The result is that the air, land and water on which local people depend have all been poisoned. Local well water is already undrinkable, even after boiling, and fresh supplies must be trucked in from the town of Chan Dim 15 kilometres away. According to the report: "It is extremely likely that due to the presence of PVC or brominated flame retardants in wire insulation, the emissions and ashes from such burning will contain high levels of both brominated and chlorinated dioxins and furans - two of the most deadly persistent organic pollutants. It is also highly likely that cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are present in the emissions and ash."

"Compared to the rest of China, this place has more miscarriages," says Doctor Li Fai-ping, who works in the maternity ward at the local Chao Yang Yiu Fai Hospital. "Babies simply die in the wombs. There are several cases a month." She adds that the Government has done nothing to assess the damage being done by the e-waste industry. "No scientists have come here to test the effects [of the pollution on the community]. We are sent to work here, we are scared too." "The fact that nobody knows of the dangers is the most depressing thing," says BAN researcher Jim Puckett, co-author of the report.

Re:Follow up (1)

RobertB-DC (622190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18200414)

The result is that the air, land and water on which local people depend have all been poisoned. Local well water is already undrinkable, even after boiling, and fresh supplies must be trucked in from the town of Chan Dim 15 kilometres away.

I think the mention of boiling as a method of purifying the water shows the unfortunate region's ignorance about the materials they're "processing". It makes me think that some poor bunch of folks got sick from the contamination, reported the illnesses to officials, and were told "just boil your water and you won't get sick any more."

For those still scratching their heads: boiling water kills microbes, but doesn't do a thing about heavy metals and other chemical contaminants. If there's a cholera outbreak, you boil your water. If there's a mercury outbreak, you move. Or, in the case of these folks who can't move, you die. Slowly. Along with your kids.

High-Temperature Furnaces (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192418)

Why not feed the waste into a high-temperature furnace, like those used to rip apart toxic chemical compounds into more benign elements and compounds?

Re:High-Temperature Furnaces (1)

lxt518052 (720422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192726)

From TFA:

Only a small numbers of PCBs are recycled. They are typically put into copper smelters, which risks releasing harmful toxic fumes. Most circuit boards are simply incinerated or thrown into landfill, which releases toxic pollutants such as heavy metals and dioxins into groundwater and the atmosphere.

They're already using the method you suggested and it has problems. Plus, high-temperature furnace has rather large carbon footprint, which in turn accelerates global warming.

Re:High-Temperature Furnaces (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192980)

I'm not a chemical engineer, but I believe the furnaces used for neutralizing toxic materials run at substantially higher temperatures that the typical metal smelter.

Re:High-Temperature Furnaces (2, Informative)

lxt518052 (720422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18193312)

Sure, but to generate the heat needed to sustain such high furnace temperature you've got to burn a large amount of fossil fuel. Note the carbon footprint I mentioned.

Also, heavy metals are not consumed by burning. Think about the pollution when it's escaped into the atomosphere.

With all these cost and danger, what have we gain from it? Not much is recycled. We just add tons of greenhouse gas to the planet.

PCB office supplies? (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192646)

It would be great to extract the metals and save the plastic with tracings, then we can make computer cases, notepad covers, desk veneers, and other office supplies out of it.

PHBs? (2, Funny)

srealm (157581) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192896)

I first read that as 'Recycling PHBs' ... now that is something I would REALLY like to see, because lord knows I need a new boss!

separation of metals from printed circuit boards (1)

oldsaint (736226) | more than 7 years ago | (#18192952)

The Chinese university method does not seem particularly new, and not particularly good for the environment. It seems to involve very intensive shredding and pulverizing processes, using an enormous amount of energy, to mechanically convert circuit boards into particles so minute that metal and non-metal, tightly bonded together in the board, can be separated by further mechanical processing. The production of pure metals using such processes is, in laboratory settings, theoretically possible, but it would be enormously expensive, and the use of energy, presumably supplied by the coal-fired Chinese electrical infrastructure, would emit metals (e.g. mercury, beryllium) in large amounts, in addition to carbon dioxide. A well controlled copper smelter - and there are a few - followed by refining processes, is likely to be much more efficient and less polluting over a broad environmental view, as well as productive of more metal recovery.

Re:separation of metals from printed circuit board (1)

lxt518052 (720422) | more than 7 years ago | (#18193492)

"This is an interesting technique that can be a part of a portfolio of technologies to treat PCBs,"

It didn't say this is THE environment friendly way to treat PCBs. But combined with other methods, it could prove more effective. Note this is only research, not meant to be all-encompass solution.

Your argument about the Chinese energy infrastructure is valid though. The reality is China has large coal reserve but not a lot of oil. Now researches are being done to turn coal into oil. I hope development in such fields will one day benefit us all.

miNus 5, Troll) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18194138)

can 3oonect to

cRock (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18194326)

Steadily fucki8g [goat.cx]

New Technique for Recycling PHBs ? (1)

c0d3r (156687) | more than 7 years ago | (#18196562)

I thought it said "New Technique for Recycling PHBs".

Nothing new - already done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18196588)

Nothing new. This was used in some Canadian computer recycling a few years ago. You shop the crap out of it, then you can use magnetic field (magnets) and electric fields to separate different types of metals and non-metals. The Chinese technique is not that much "new".

Carcinogenic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18197144)

I didn't know that Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) were used in computers. Or that they could be recycled. We have a big PCB problem in our bay.

"PCB" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18197398)

Gee, and I thought this would be an interesting article on how one could get rid of those nasty Poly Chlorinated Biphenyls from old transformers.

Board solder melts at 260C (1)

ahfoo (223186) | more than 7 years ago | (#18205614)

It's no mystery that circuit boards are produced by soldering the pieces together. If the parts can be soldered they can certainly be de-soldered as well. Instead of smashing the pieces, why not just slowly heat the boards to the point at which the solder liquifies and then vibrate them to free up the pieces. If the boards could tolerate the heat during production then obviously they can tolerate the same heat in dissassembly without burning.

Once the various capacitors, chips, connectors and such are separated from the boards they could be much more easily further processed and perhaps in some cases certain parts could even be re-used as is. The solder itself could almost certainly be reclaimed. The premise that the best first step is to either crush or burn the components seems poorly thought out.

Now I realize that the majority of the components cannot be directly re-used in an economic manner. Most of the waste is most likely either seriously outdated or already damaged to begin with but by first removing all the soldered components it would be far more efficient to concentrate like materials into dense bundles for further processing in a more efficient manner.
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