It’s thought that scientists may have developed a new way to take tech recycling into the future by recycling old phone cases into high-quality plastics. It could see products that are usually incinerated or dumped in landfills more widely processed for reuse.
This is where things get a bit scientific; mobile phones, unlike plastic drinks bottles are made up of multiple polymers.
A polymer is a molecular structure of a number of similar units bonded together. The number of polymers can determine how strong plastic is. In simple terms, a milk bottle is easily crushed because it’s formed of a single polymer, while a laptop is slightly harder due to its complex structure.
Unfortunately, e-recycling usually contains a more complex array of mixed polymers making it more challenging to break down for re-use. The process previously found to work well-produced carcinogenic vapor when heated to a temperature that was efficient.
It’s been described as ‘like making candy’, the process involves recovering something called polymers by dissolving them in a solvent. This is similar to making sweets when you dissolve sugar in water.
There has now been a development using a chemical named NMP which only releases vapours when heated to 180 degrees C. Fortunately, this is over the temperature required to turn old phone shells into something new.
The team of scientists who have developed the process are keen to ensure that everything is as eco-friendly as possible. They intend to recycle the chemicals by capturing the condensation and re-processing it again and again.