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Safe recycling procedure uncovered for e-waste, mobile phones

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IBM researchers has found a simple chemical process of converting discarded electronic waste including mobile phones and Compact Discs into harmless and high tenacity plastics in their recent research.

The Almaden research facility scientists, noted that the new discovery can help convert poly-carbonates into plastics safe for water purification, fiber optics and medical equipment.

According to their discoveries, more than 2.7 million tons of a plastic, known as polycarbonates, is being generated worldwide from old household items, such as CDs, smartphones and eyeglass lenses, as a part of a recycling process.

 Research Staff Member, IBM Research, Gavin O Jones, said poly-carbonates are common plastics in the society – especially in consumer electronics in the form of LED screens, smartphones and Blu-rays, as well as everyday eyeglass lenses, kitchen utensils and household storage gear..

Jones said that the researchers have found a new way of recycling to improve how this prominent substance impacts the world’s health and environment. IBM said it researchers added a fluoride reactant, a base (similar to baking powder) and heat to old Compact Discs to produce a new plastic with temperature and chemical resistance superior to the original substance.

In this study, researchers used a combination of predictive modeling and experimental lab work to make the discovery, and according to the research company, the learning from research efforts will also be used to advance cognitive systems to help accelerate the materials discovery process.

“While preventing these plastics from entering landfills, we simultaneously recycle the substance into a new type of plastic — safe and strong enough for purifying our water and producing medical equipment,” Research Staff Member at IBM Research, Jeanette Garcia said.

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Already, it has been estimated that 500 million PCs worldwide reached the end of their life in the last one decade. This volume of obsolete PCs contain approximately 2, 870, 000 tons of plastics, 718, 000 tons of lead, 1,363 tons of CD and 287 tons of mercury.

A report by the US-based San Diego Tribune said up to 80 per cent of e-waste generated and meant for recycling in the US is quietly exported to developing countries, mostly Africa. It describes the economy of restriction of such export as poor.

The document wondered why Nigeria and other African countries have not developed e-waste management policy like the European Union, the US, Canada and several other countries have done.

It will be recalled that in 2002, EU came up with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, a policy that holds manufacturers responsible for disposal of their products after their lifetime.

In a related development, information on the website of the Institute of Chartered Chemists of Nigeria, showed that about 400,000 computers arrive Lagos seaports monthly, out of which about 75 per cent are obsolete and not serviceable. Such scraps, it claims, are dismantled while the residual parts are taken to landfills and other dump sites.“Nigeria has literally been turned into an international dump site for all manner of electronic junk,” ICCN asserted.

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