Our apologies to Aretha Franklin, but people finding innovative ways to recycle things that are dangerous if dumped in a landfill makes us want to get up and sing. New Scientist has the story of a process pioneered in China to take those little Printed Circuit Board Love Canals we all have on our desks and winnow out the valuable metals in them, and do it without releasing so much toxic stuff into our earth, wind, and fire.
Only a small numbers of PCBs are recycled. They are typically put into copper smelters, which risks releasing harmful toxic fumes. Most circuit boards are simply incinerated or thrown into landfill, which releases toxic pollutants such as heavy metals and dioxins into groundwater and the atmosphere.
Researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, believe their recycling solution could reduce these problems. It involves crushing boards and using a high-voltage electric field to separate metallic and non-metallic materials. The metals can then be reclaimed by distilling in a vacuum while the non-metal components can be compacted into plates for use as building materials.