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Integrated e-waste processing facility nears completion

By Mary Page Bailey |

Although it contains many valuable metals, electronic waste (e-waste) is an exceedingly difficult material stream to process, and the vast majority of e-waste is not recycled. EnviroLeach Technologies Inc. (Vancouver, B.C.; www.enviroleach.com) is currently preparing to start up a first-of-its-kind integrated processing facility in Vancouver that combines advanced separation technologies with proprietary chemistry to process up to 20 ton/d of e-waste. The process uses a novel equipment arrangement that includes a vacuum belt filter for solid-liquid separation, optical sorting and a leaching circuit to maximize recovery of several valuable product streams from e-waste. EnviroLeach’s technology runs at ambient conditions and a neutral pH, with zero effluent water and no landfill waste, while exhibiting comparable recovery rates to traditional e-waste processing methods, says the company. Furthermore, e-waste dismantling is simplified, when compared to other processing methods, as the end-to-end process can handle any type of printed circuit board, as well as complete components, including modems and power supplies. “We can actually take a whole cable box and shred it, separating the steel first and removing the plastic casing. Then we will separate the aluminum and printed circuitboards, which are divided into the organic components and a metals concentrate that includes both precious and base metals,” explains Todd Beavis, vice president, corporate development. Ultimately, the process results in at least five saleable product streams, including gold recovered through electrowinning.

Another unique facet of EnviroLeach’s facility is a patented method to efficiently recover tin from circuitboard soldering. “Tin adds a lot of extra value that no one else is capturing. OEMs in particular are quite interested in tin,” says Beavis. The tin-recovery step is currently running at laboratory scale, but the company foresees considerable scaleup in the next three to six months. The technology can also be used to recover other base metals, such as copper and lead.

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