The Electronics Recycling Process

Why is it so important that unwanted and unused electronics are handled in an environmentally sound manner?

Some of the issues surrounding the management of waste electronics include illegal dumping, shipping offshore to developing countries, improper handling or disposal of toxic materials, and inadequate health and safety systems for workers handling and processing this equipment.

To ensure that the products collected through the Return-It Electronics program are recycled in a manner that protects the environment as well as worker's health and safety, all recyclers processing program material will be audited according to Recycler Qualification Office's (RQO) Recycler Qualification Program (RQP)

The Electronics Recycling Standard (ERS) and associated Recycler Qualification Program were designed to identify the key environmental, health and safety aspects associated with unwanted electronics recycling, and provide a means to assess the recycler’s conformance to these requirements. The ERS is considered the minimum environmental, health and safety requirements for recycling unwanted electronics. It prohibits the land filling of unwanted electronics, improper handling and disposal of hazardous materials, and dumping of any equipment or parts in developing nations.

You can have your End-Of-Life Electronics (EOLE) recycled free of charge, simply by dropping it off at an approved collection depot. Click Here to find the collection site nearest you.

After a rigorous environmental audit and assessment process, E-Cycle Solutions, FCM Recycling, and GEEP have been selected as the primary vendors to provide recycling services for the designated end-of-life electronics collected under the Return-It Electronics program in British Columbia.

In addition to these primary recyclers, all of their downstream processors are also subject to the rigorous Recycler Qualification Program to ensure the highest levels of adherence to environmental, occupational health and safety, export and other standards. If you wish to find out more about any of our primary recyclers please visit their sites:

The following recyclers are also approved for our RECYCLER OR PROCESSOR RETURN OPTION:

For more information regarding Recycler Qualification Program standards, visit www.rqp.ca

The Recycling Process

Recycling of electronics involves processing to recover raw materials such as metals, glass and plastics and electronics are usually separated into the following categories:

Non-Hazardous Materials

Ferrous and non-ferrous materials, including steel, aluminum, copper, wires and cables, other metals (brass, bronze, metal fines), plastics, wood and glass (non-leaded). These will be sold to smelters for the production of raw materials.

Electronic scrap

Cables and wires, printed circuit boards (high, medium and low grade), components, including hard drives, chips and other electronic components.

Substances of Concern

Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT), leaded plasma display glass and other leaded glass, rechargeable batteries, non-rechargeable batteries, including alkaline, lead acid, and coin cell batteries on circuit boards, mercury bearing lamps and switches, components containing polychlorinated biphenyls, ink and toner cartridges.

Not all of our recyclers process electronics the same way.  Below are the two processes currently undertaken by our recyclers:

Process 1

  1. Lead, zinc, cadmium, tin, germanium, indium and other elements that fume are captured and processed.
  2. Silica, iron, and aluminum remain in a slag which is further converted into value added products for construction/cement industry.Plastics, wood and other organics are used as fuel providing heat to the furnace and converted to steam. This steam is captured and used to heat process vessels.
  3. Aluminum is also removed to be sent for further refining
  4. Copper and circuit boards are being removed at shredding operations and will be sold to specialty metal refiners

Process 2

  1. Display devices, such as TVs and computer monitors, are hand dismantled removing the leaded glass CRTs. Also, plastics, copper and circuit boards are also hand removed in this process and sent to downstream recyclers

  2. Computers, computer mice, keyboards are sent through shredding processes whereby plastics are machine sorted.

  3. Aluminum, copper and steel are sorted through a mix of hand sorting and machine sorting to be sent for further recycling.

  4. Plastics are machine sorted and sent to downstream recyclers for further processors.

Where Do the Recovered Materials Go?

What happens to end-of-life electronics? from EPRA on Vimeo.

Material/ComponentProcessResultProcess Location

Leaded Glass

Manually and/or mechanically separated, cleaned and processed into cullet for use in glass production

Glass Recovery

Canada / USA / Mexico

Manually and/or mechanically separated smelted for reclaim of lead from the glass

Metal Recovery

Canada

Non-leaded Glass

Manually separated and processed into cullet for use in glass products or construction materials

Glass Recovery

Canada / USA

Mechanically processed and used as a silica flux substitute in the precious metals smelting process

Substitute Resource

Belgium

Plastic

Manually and/or mechanically separated, ground, and pelletized

Plastic Recovery

Canada / USA / China

Manually and/or mechanically separted and consumed in smelting process

Energy Recovery

Canada

Circuit Boards

Manually and/or mechanically separated and smelted for reclaim of precious metals

Metal Recovery

Canada / USA / Belgium / Japan

Cables and Wires

Manually and/or mechanically separated and smelted for metal recovery

Metal Recovery

Canada / Belgium / USA

Metals

Manually and/or mechanically separated and smelted for reclaim

Metal Recovery

Canada / USA / Belgium / Japan

Batteries

Mechanically separated and smelted and metal recovery

Metal Recovery

Canada / USA

Mercury Containing Lamps

Mechanical separation of lamps to capture glass, metal and phosphor powder.  Phosphor power is further distilled for mercury recovery

Mercury Recovery

Canada / USA

Inks & Toners

Cleaned and reconditioned for reuse

Cartridge Reuse

Canada

Processed through energy from waste process

Energy Recovery

USA

Ethylene Glycol

Manually recovered for refinement and purification

Glycol Recovery

Canada

Wood

Mechanically processed for enegy recovery or other disposition

Energy Recovery

Canada

Landfill

Canada