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New Recycling Concepts to Construct a Completely New Circular Economy Ecosystem

By Korbin Lan
Published: Apr 27,2018

Figure 1 :   Structure of the Circular Economy (source: EPA)
Figure 1 : Structure of the Circular Economy (source: EPA)

The part most worthy of commendation in the circular economy is putting economic thinking into recycling practice, and the solid and positive foundation of recycling enables people to be aware of the fact that recycling has always been about the creation of a economy. Furthermore, the objective of the circular economy is economic development. This sentiment is its structural basis, and it is one of the most powerful guiding principles for establishing a green industry chain in recent years.

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In addition, a large part of the circular economy involves the treatment of electronic waste, which is also the recycling of what is known as e-waste. However, there is no way that people can respond to the value of e-waste when it is conceptualized as garbage. This is especially true in lieu of the fact that e-waste contains a number of key precious metals that are essential raw materials for the tech industry.

They are E-Resources not Garbage

Therefore, from the perspective of supply chains, e-waste should be referred to as e-resources rather than being seen as garbage. This is because when it is viewed from the standpoint of economic value, it is a source of indispensable precious metals for industry and manufacturing.

Kenny Hsu, Managing Director of UWin Nanotech, has pointed out that “e-waste actually should not be referred to as garbage and should instead be called a resource for electronics known as e-resources.” This shift in terminology has the capacity to alter the entire industry’s and market’s thinking about the handling of e-waste and could even change the general public’s attitudes about recycling e-waste.

Kenny Hsu stated that beginning this year UWin Nanotech will develop a comprehensive corporate strategy based on e-resources internally, which includes the research and development and sales of products along with the external images of the products with a view to enabling the entire industry to become aware of their hidden benefits and value.

UWin Nanotech is an international environmentally-friendly metals-stripping solutions provider which specializes in eco-friendly hydrometallurgy metal stripping solutions, including eco-friendly metals-stripper and automated metals-stripping equipment which have the capacity to satisfy metals-stripping requirements of businesses with a variety of different scales and forms. Currently, their solutions are being used by several different international companies, and the precious metals that they can be utilized to treat include gold, silver, tin, and palladium.

Moreover, in accordance with the guiding principles behind the development of the circular economy in the European Union, recycled materials are now one link in the supply of original materials and are classified as a resource-level supplies. Taking the Netherlands as an example, they estimate that by 2030, the use of mineral, petrochemical, and metal raw materials will have been reduced by 50%. Currently, the Environmental Administration in Taiwan is considering adopting the European Union’s approach and increasing the use of recycled materials to 17%.

The Key to Recycling Methods and Workflows: Hydrometallurgy Solutions

Looking at experimental statistics from UWin Nanotech, the value contained within waste electronics is definitely greater than people imagine and truly worthy of the name, e-resources. In accordance with UWin Nanotech’s implementation, each ton of waste smartphone boards yields 0.402 grams of gold, 0.844 grams of silver, 0.0161 grams of palladium, 71.6 grams of tin, and 245.6 grams of copper. This amounts to a calculated value of US$21,400 for each ton of waste smartphone boards.

Figure 2 :   UWin Nanotech’s Hydrometallurgy Process is a solution which is mostly harmless to both the environment and human health.
Figure 2 : UWin Nanotech’s Hydrometallurgy Process is a solution which is mostly harmless to both the environment and human health.

Although there are abundant resources hidden within e-waste, Kenny Hsu also stresses that while e-waste is being transformed into resources, the processing methods and procedures must take into account both environmental protection and humanitarian principles. If importance is placed on the economic benefits but environmental sustainability and human care are neglected, then it is not worthwhile.

To achieve precious metals recycling which is both economically beneficial and environmentally-friendly, it is imperative to utilize advanced metals-stripping technologies. The technologies must have the capability of precisely separating each type of precious metal from e-waste components while also upholding the principles of environmental protection and humanitarianism throughout the procedures of all solutions, and UWin Nanotech’s hydrometallurgy metals recycling solutions fully meet the requirements of both principles.

Traditionally, most methods of recycling precious metals from motherboard components have utilized methods that involve crushing followed by incineration or dissolving and refining in an aqua regia solution. However, these methods have poor effectiveness for recycling and only yield small amounts of precious metals. In addition, they also produce severe air pollution and even emit poisonous waste water which is extremely harmful to both the environment and human health.

Furthermore, in addition to directly harming people’s health and the environment, contemporary methods of handling precious metals recycling make use incinerators and plasma furnaces to refine gold and silver, and these procedures produce large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions. Moreover, firing up an incinerator even one time requires the consumption of large amounts of oil and natural gas, which wastes global resources. In addition, the overall amount of carbon emissions directly increases pressure on the earth’s resources.

However, UWin Nanotech employs a hydometallurgy process, which is virtually harmless to the environment and human health.

Unlike incineration methods which utilize electrical power or the burning of fuels to achieve high temperatures, the soaking in UWin Nanotech’s hydrometallurgy metal stripping solutions can be carried out at room temperature to recycle precious metals from e-waste boards. This procedure is extremely safe and environmentally-friendly, and it does not produce large amounts of carbon emissions.

Big Data Accurately Calculates Raw Material Costs of Precious Metals Recycling

In addition to providing environmentally-friendly, low carbon, and non-toxic metal stripping solutions, UWin Nanotech makes use of their own patented automated equipment and environmental metal-stripping technologies to create procedures with the capacity to accurately analyze and record data about the precious metals recycled from waste materials.

The procedures can rapidly strip components away from waste boards without harming the materials, and afterwards the precious metals, such as gold, silver, palladium, copper, and tin are sorted and separated along with data about the recycling accurately recorded to serve as reference values for follow-up materials recovery and product manufacturing.

Figure 3 :   UWin Nanotech has created a set procedure which has the capacity to both accurately sort and record data regarding the precious metals obtained from recycled materials.
Figure 3 : UWin Nanotech has created a set procedure which has the capacity to both accurately sort and record data regarding the precious metals obtained from recycled materials.

In the use of this process, tin soldering is first removed with the SnST-550A Tin stripper, and through a soaking method, the tin soldering on the waste boards is directly removed with the metal components and chips also being removed from the boards. After they are separated and sorted, the waste materials are treated with different metal-stripping solutions in accordance with the make up of their respective precious metals. For instance, the UW-860 Gold-Stripping Solution or the UW-602 Silver Stripping Solution will be used to recycle different precious metals.

Taking precious metals recycling from smart phones as an example, using UWin Nanotech’s environmentally-friendly recycling procedures, data can be obtained about the metal content recycled from each kilogram of waste mobile phone boards. In addition to being used on smartphones, the procedures and solutions in this package can also be used to obtain valuable precious metals from other electronic devices, provided that they have recycling benefits.

The use and value of this type of precious metals recycling data could be considered unlimited, and it has broken out of the one-dimensional school of thought that precious metals recycled from e-resources can just be sold or reused. Instead, it has expanded precious metals recycling to be more evaluation-oriented and even used for cost analysis in governments’ environmental policies and in the manufacturing industries. In both cases, this data architecture can be utilized to develop new business concepts.

Integrating Cultural Creative and Education to Create Greater Value

Through recycling with environmentally-friendly procedures, green materials can become increasingly plentiful and more widely used. In addition to being utilized in manufacturing, they can also be used to combine creativity, fashion, and lifestyles and even expand the direction of the circular economy. Indeed, this is the future direction of development in the culture and fashion industries.

Figure 4 :   All copper, gold, and silver is utilized by UWin Nanotech as materials for cultural and creative designs .
Figure 4 : All copper, gold, and silver is utilized by UWin Nanotech as materials for cultural and creative designs .

In the case of UWin Nanotech, in addition to providing environmentally-friendly metal stripping solutions, the company also works to popularize cultural and creative enterprises with environmentally-friendly materials. Through the use of designs using gold and silver obtained from e-resources materials, the problem of raw materials for cultural and creative designs can be solved and the importance of environmental protection can be revealed through cultural and creative designs.

In the United States, the PC manufacturer, Dell, recycles gold and silver from their own company’s computers which is then reused inside their flagship electronic products. In addition, Dell also collaborates with jewelry brands to launch earring, ring, and bracelet products made of gold and silver which were recycled from e-waste.

Furthermore, in Japan the organizers of the Olympics in Tokyo are planning to use gold and silver recycled from mobile phones in the production of the Olympic prize medals. In this way, they will promote and implement environmental sustainability concepts. In addition, the Japanese organizers anticipate that they will need to collect 8 tons of waste metals in order to yield the 40kg of gold, 2,930kg of silver, and 2,994kg of copper needed to produce 5,000 prize medals.

In addition to utilizing environmentally-friendly recycling in cultural and creative industries, these kinds of recycling concepts can also be inserted into educational curriculum, and by educating young people to give them a true understanding and operational knowledge of technologies and procedures for environmentally-friendly recycling of precious metals, people’s attitudes regarding e-resources recycling can be thoroughly and comprehensively changed and entered the foundations of the development of the circular economy.

Currently, UWin Nanotech is collaborating with a number of high schools in Taiwan and providing schools with free environmentally-friendly metal stripping prescriptions to enable them to carry out environmentally-friendly metal-stripping education. This will enable younger students to directly experience the positive value of environmental metal-stripping, while simultaneously passing on the concept of environmental sustainability to the young generation.

Regarding this education, Kenny Hsu has even loftier expectations and hopes to genuinely realize the vision of green chemistry. He stated that they are currently carrying out environmentally-friendly metal-stripping education to enable these concepts to be implemented in education. Furthermore, he also hopes to be able to achieve environmentally-friendly green gold plating as protective plating in order to transform the entire electroplating and gold-stripping industries.

(TR/ Phil Sweeney)

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