Improving the Recyclability of Computer Scrap and Other E-Waste

EPA Contract Number: EPD04058
Title: Improving the Recyclability of Computer Scrap and Other E-Waste
Investigators: Sommer, Edward J.
Small Business: National Recovery Technologies Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: II
Project Period: April 1, 2004 through June 30, 2005
Project Amount: $225,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2004) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Waste , Hazardous Waste/Remediation


Electronic waste (e-waste) is one of the most rapidly growing waste problems worldwide. More than 13 billion pounds of e-waste plastics are expected to be produced during the next decade from computer e-waste alone. Many of these electronic components are constructed of valuable engineered plastics. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has indicated that recycling is the preferred application for these plastics. Unsorted, these plastics have minimal value because they only can be reused in low-value applications, often costing more to recycle than the value of the recycled material, thereby contributing to a low recycling rate. Sorting by polymer type allows the polymers to be reused in high- value applications, thereby making the plastic recycling process economical for the e-waste processor.

Current e-waste recovery technologies are geared toward mining valuable metals from the stream. Sorting technologies for plastics currently used are either too slow (e.g., portable Raman units) or inefficient (e.g., density and electrostatic sorting). National Recovery Technologies, Inc. (NRT) has seen considerable interest in a high-speed spectroscopic sorting technology for e-waste plastics. Phase I research demonstrated technical feasibility for the development of such a technology.

The goal of this Phase II research project is to complete development of the Phase I technology and design, construct, install, and test a prototype e-waste plastic sorting system in an e-waste demanufacturing facility. To assist in funding the deployment, testing, and further development of the prototype systems, NRT has obtained a commitment from an e-waste processor that has agreed to cooperate with NRT in the development and testing of the technology, with potential Phase funding upon successful demonstration of the technology.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, electronic waste, e-waste, engineered plastics, computer scrap, polymer, metals, spectroscopic sorting technology, plastic sorting system, demanufacturing facility., Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Civil/Environmental Engineering, Environmental Engineering, demanufacturing, plastic flake, computer scrap recycling, electronic waste recycling, computers and electronics, spectroscopic scrap sorting, electronic components

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final

  • SBIR Phase I:

    Improving the Recyclability of Computer Scrap and Other E-Waste  | Final Report