There’s a reason e-waste is such a huge environmental problem. It’s simply not convenient to recycle old electronics and (surprise!) most people are kind of lazy. It also doesn’t help that electronics are tough to properly disassemble and recycle. The chemicals used to break down electronics components are insanely toxic and flammable.
Fortunately, us SJ’ers aren’t usually lazy and recycle almost everything. (I’m looking at all those plastic bottles on your desk, KEITH.) To combat this global issue, however, scientists in the UK got together to develop a new kind of circuit board. It’s 90% recyclable and… well, hey, that’s pretty cool. Let’s stop and talk about that claim for a second.
Currently, circuit boards are manufactured with glass epoxy and solder and are pretty sturdy and heat resistant. Aside from scale and size, they haven’t really changed much since the 1980’s. (Neither has Keith’s haircut. ZING!)
On the other hand, these new circuit boards are a conductive thermoplastic that is flexible at high temperatures and rigid at room temperature. Using a new kind of adhesive and ink, circuits are printed between bonded components.
And it’s easy to recycle them. You can melt the circuit board down and make new boards without having to using all kinds of crazy chemicals to separate the metal, epoxy and solder.
This brings us to the spit-take portion of this post. How does one remove the circuit board components on this new-fangled board and return it to its pristinely recyclable condition?
You take a nice, hot shower with it. No, seriously. You can also use your dishwasher.
That’s how this new circuit board adhesive works. You administer near-boiling water to the board and the bonded components and printed circuitry scrapes off. Just use a spatula. No muss, no fuss.
Now, obviously, this new technology isn’t the sort of thing you’re going to see in a TV soon. It couldn’t withstand a TV’s internal temperature. According to the company backing this research, a lot of current interest is actually coming from the automotive industry (see, probably: Elon Musk of Tesla).
We do hope this technology makes its way to TVs very soon. And computers. And all electronics. The world will be a better place for it…