Automated Removal of Brominated Flame Retardant Material From a Mixed E-Waste Plastics Recycling Stream

EPA Contract Number: EPD09045
Title: Automated Removal of Brominated Flame Retardant Material From a Mixed E-Waste Plastics Recycling Stream
Investigators: Sommer, Edward J.
Small Business: National Recovery Technologies Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: II
Project Period: March 1, 2009 through December 31, 2012
Project Amount: $295,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2009) Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Waste , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)


Electronic waste (e-waste) is one of the most rapidly growing waste problems worldwide. Improper handling of e-waste results in vast amounts of toxic waste being sent to landfill and leaching into the water supply. Due to there concerns e-waste recycling is a rapidly growing industry. Unfortunately, most current e-waste recycling processes rely on either manual hand sorting or differential density sorting methods. Manual hand sorting is expensive in the U.S. and has been associated with major environmental damage overseas. Differential density sorting is expensive and is not very effective for sorting e-waste plastics.

When properly sorted there are a significant amount of valuable recyclable materials in e-waste. Recycling rates for e-waste are currently low in part because e-waste recyclers charge a fee for recycling in order to make a profit. Legislative action in many states may increase this rate, but the long term viability of e-waste recycling depends upon economical approaches to recovering theses valuable materials. E-waste plastics often are difficult to re-use in part because of the inability to separate those materials which contain brominated flame retardant.

The objective of the proposed Phase II research is to complete development of the technology successfully tested in the Phase I research. In order to assist in funding the deployment, testing, and further development of the prototype systems the proposing firm has obtained a commitment form an e-waste processor which has agreed to cooperated with NRT in the development and testing of the technology with Phase III funding.

A significant increase in the anticipated amount of e-waste has been observed over the last few years and is expected to continue as the time between introduction and obsolescence becomes continually smaller. Because most electronic devices contain a significant number of plastic parts with and without flame retardants separation and recovery of these materials is crucial for long-term viability of environmentally friendly recycling of e-wastes. It is anticipated that upon the successful completion of this Phase II research that the application of the technology will improve the costs of recycling e-wastes, improving the rate at which e-wastes are recycled.

The proposing firm is a major manufacturer of recycling equipment of the post-consumer plastics recycling industry and has received considerable interest in the development of a sorting system for sorting brominated plastics in e-waste plastics. Due to this interest the proposed technology is expected to have a strong market in the e-waste recycling industry.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report

  • SBIR Phase I:

    Automated Removal of Brominated Flame Retardant Material From a Mixed E-Waste Plastics Recycling Stream  | Final Report