Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is currently one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world. Typical for WEEE is the high content of valuable and precious metals, as well as harmful contaminants like halogens, flame retardant chemicals and plastics. Currently, WEEE treatment and metal recovery methods are imperfect, polluting and energy intensive. In this paper, novel treatment possibilities are outlined for printed circuit boards (PCB) utilizing both the flotation separation technique and acid bioleaching. Flotation, conducted after crushing and sieving of PCB, produced two fractions: metal-rich concentrate, which is more suitable for pyrometallurgical treatment than untreated PCB, and metal-poor froth suitable for acid bioleaching. It was seen that especially low pH (1.6), high initial Fe2+ concentration (7.8 g/l) and low PCB froth concentration in the bioleaching solution (50 g/l) were beneficial for the rapid and selective dissolution of copper. With these parameters, 99% of copper was solubilized from PCB froth in bioreactor treatment, with Cu (6.8 g/l) and Fe (7.0 g/l) being the only major metallic elements in bioleaching solution.
- froth flotation
- waste processing