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Recycling E-Waste (Zero Emission Technology) – UPSC


To deal with one of the fastest growing waste streams, researchers at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi have developed a zero-emission technology to manage and recycle e-waste to wealth. A team led by K.K. Pant and his research group in the Catalytic Reaction Engineering Laboratory at Chemical Engineering Department have adopted a methodology that uses e-waste as an “Urban Mine” for metal recovery and energy production.

Important Highlights

  • Benefit of Recycling – Researchers said using their method, e-waste is shredded and pyrolyzed to yield liquid and gaseous fuels, leaving behind a metal-rich solid fraction.
  • Residue – On further separation using a novel technique, the leftover solid residue yields a 90-95% pure metal mixture and some carbonaceous materials.
  • Use of Carbonaceous Material – It is further converted to aerogel for oil spillage cleaning, dye removal, carbon dioxide capture, and use in supercapacitors.
  • Funded by Government – The technology is an outcome of a Department of Science and Technology, funded project and developed technology will cater to the need of “Smart Cities,” “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan,” and “Atmanirbhar Bharat” initiatives of the government.

About Electronic Waste

  • Waste electric and electronic equipment (WEEE) is now considered as one of the fastest growing waste streams.
  • The most distinctive feature of electronic waste is complexity of components and their integration.
  • This type of waste consists of polymeric materials and has high content of valuable metals that could be
  • The purpose of thermal treatment of electronic waste is elimination of plastic components (especially epoxy resins – primary skin irritants) while leaving non-volatile mineral and metallic phases in more or less original forms.
  • Additionally, the gaseous product of the process after cleaning may be used for energy recovery or as syngas also called a synthesis gas.


  • Syngas is a mix of molecules containing hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, water vapours, as well as other hydrocarbons and condensable compounds.
  • Syngas is a main product of gasification and majority product of high temperature pyrolysis carried on any biomass, residues and waste.


  • Waste printed circuit boards (WPCBs) contain lots of valuable resources together with hazardous materials.
  • This type of waste contains heavy metals (i.e., lead, cadmium) and hazardous substances that may pollute environment if they are not properly treated.
  • However, a significant amount of valuable materials contained in WPCBs make them worth being recycled.

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