back to article Romanian and Turkish scientists turn circuit boards into oil

Whether through a force of expanding environmental activism or just compliance with government edicts, the IT sector is in a pinch over how to safely recycle defunct computers and equipment. Unfortunately, IT kit is packed with enough environmental hazards to put the Toxic Avenger's codpiece to shame. And with each generation …


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  1. Pondule
    Dead Vulture


    At least PCBs don't smell as bad as turkey guts.

  2. Ben

    "Renewables" its a "buzz" word you know.............

    Yeah , my mate is on his 3rd Chinese belt sander , and the suppliers didn't want the old ones back , hmmmmmmm , anybody know where i can see the failure rate

    figures (DOA) for the domestic goods everyone "needs" to buy , at the "cheapest" possible "PRICE"? the cathode ray nipple

    Germany is the nearest place i know of where this type of scrap can be processed end to end in one plant ( dry process as well water used=.double bonus ) .

    Know anywhere in the UK where this can be done? , post here , i would LOVE to know!

    Because up till now its all been a load of WEEEEEEEE.......... just so long as little

    Jack gets his "iTox" , Gordon wants to encourage trade with China u kno ....

    Oh Yeah , thanks for that , Darling (and sisters), but you are still , completely and i do mean completely , F*CKED !

    It makes me wonder , how i keep from goin' under ..... its like a jungle ....

    Where IS AmanfromMars , i need some help with my extraction of oil from politics

    /politicians and he's sure to have the tech to do that .

    Apologies in advance for the obelisk of my rant , its an artefact , boa noite .

  3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

    Oil? I see no oil.

    Oh good, just what we need to clean our atmosphere. Phenol rich jet fuels.

  4. Kanhef

    Thermal depolymerization

    Is a similar process in the works that should produce similar results. However, it doesn't rely on specific catalysts, so it should be able to turn any kind of waste into useful raw materials.

  5. Andy Bright
    Thumb Down

    Thinly veiled threat

    "You don't want too much polybrominated diphenyl ethers in your diet if you cherish your liver and brain"

    I believe the alcohol I consume will protect me from such threats, no matter how much of it I choose to eat on drunken accident.

  6. Pyros

    Nothing new

    Some boffins in the US have been running high-pressure recycling systems that can take in pretty much everything, including human bodies.

    Mind you, I wouldn't mind being reprocessed to make up a 100 new iPod cases, so I can haunt them to play N'Sync at inopportune times. >)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    <cough, choke>

    "...destroy or remove almost all of the hazardous toxic compounds."

    Now *that* fills me with confidence -- and some almost "not" toxins.

  8. Richard Hebert

    More plastics , more oil ..

    Read somewhere recently people were using

    12 microwave guns at different frequencies , to

    decompose plastics and turn them back into oil ..

    Now this ..

    What we'd really need right now is a way to get rid of

    our oil addiction altogether.Not more ways to get some.

    Time for a pint.

  9. Jon Tocker

    About sodding time.

    I've been saying for years that they should depolymerise plastics etc to recycle the raw materials but the "conventional wisdom" was "it's too complicated and costly".

    Oh look, now people all over the place are finding "simple" cost effective ways of doing it.

    So shall I just assume that all those people in the past meant "they too fucking lazy to work out a way to do it yet"?

    Richard Hebert:

    While getting rid of our oil addiction, so far as fueling vehicles goes, will do wonders for our pollution levels, we still rely on oil or coal to manufacture plastics, most of which wind up in landfills and more oil/coal needs to be used to create more plastic products to put in landfills.

    This will at least help with ensuring plastics aren't the one-off waste of resources they used to be.

    I seriously question the wisdom of all those disposable plastic shopping bags being used and then thrown out (nearest to recycling of the bags is often "I use the shopping bags as bin-liners") when the 1950's tech - brown paper bags - is completely biodegradeable, recyclable and comes from a renewable resource.

    Good to see people are working on ways to re-extract the basic compounds back out of the waste plastic.

  10. M. Burns Silver badge

    @Jon Tocker

    Current research demonstrates that paper in today's landfills does not degrade or break down at a substantially faster rate than plastic does.

    Brown paper bags bags are not any more environmentally friendly than plastic shopping bags. Paper bags take 4 times the energy to make than plastic bags. Paper bags generate 70% more air and 50 times more water pollutants to make than plastic bags. It takes 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    No more new kit.

    That's it folks, the gear you have now will need to last you for the next 20 years. Think you can do it? Think the gear can do it?

  12. Dax Farrer

    @M. Burns

    You are misinformed

  13. TeeCee Gold badge

    @Richard Hebert


    I could have had free oil but, like a fool, I saved my pennies and only bought eleven microwave guns when they were on offer at Maplins.

  14. Paul

    liver and brain?

    "You don't want too much polybrominated diphenyl ethers in your diet if you cherish your liver and brain"

    Your talking to the wrong people...

  15. Ishkandar

    I remember...

    ... my dearly beloved grandma's servants trundling to market, each day, with a basket on her/their arm(s). They'll return with the basket(s) full of veggies and bits of dead animal(s) and one or more live fowl, in the other hand, feet (fowl, not servant) tied together and hanging upside down, squawking (again fowl, not servant) at the indignity of their position !! You can't get fresher chickens that when they are still squawking at you !!

    One of the servants was recycled into a majordomo until her death and was then replaced by another recycled servant. Since I flew the nest after that, I have no idea what happened next.

    No paper or plastic bags to recycle. The food was wrapped in large leaves and tied up with "string" made from strips of dried water weed ! Biomass was maintained by composting wrappings and strings !!

    Nowadays, kiddies don't believe in Santa Claus any more and think chickens come from supermarkets, ready shrink-wrapped and minus innards, head and feet !!

  16. BoldMan

    @Jon Tocker`

    However, paper bags come from a renewable resource - Trees, so the need to recycle isn't as great.

    Those figures you give look ludicrous to me.

    Then again 79% of all statistics are made up!

  17. Ru

    Is it just me,

    Or are the comments here getting slowly more and more content-free, and full of people who seem to think they have to follow in amanfrommars' footsteps and write everything in some kind of tedious and semi-coherent argot?

    Anyway, on subject, I wonder exactly how much power all these recycling processes need, and where it comes from. There was a delightful tale from my neighbourhood a little while ago whereby the local recycling facility was using a huge and powerful rubbish sorter to save on labour when separating mixed recyclable stuff. Only it used massive amounts of power, making most of the recycling effort supremely pointless.

  18. G Fan

    @Jon Tocker

    >I've been saying for years that they should depolymerise plastics etc to recycle the raw materials but the "conventional wisdom" was "it's too complicated and costly".<

    And the "conventional wisdom" was right. What has happened is that the price of oil has risen and the price of recycling technology fallen to the point where it /starts/ to become cost effective to begin research into industrial-scale plastics recycling. While oil and natural gas are cheap, there's no incentive to do any kind of research or investment because you're too busy making a million dollars per hour per process unit on your refinery complex, without doing any work at all. Lazy? Yes - it's called "making hay while the sun shines".

    It has been known for decades that chucking plastic into the front of a steam hydrocracker will break the plastic down into something useful. Like propylene, ethylene or benzene useful. The problem has always been how to feed enough plastic in to sustain the reaction, as solids handling is a pain in the arse. Any technology that can turn plastic into a stable liquid at low(ish) temperature is just perfect and allows "conventional wisdom" to "recycle" existing "chemical plants" into "plastics recycling plants". With or without the quote-mark abuse.

  19. Funkster
    Dead Vulture

    A graphical illustration of this process in action

  20. M. Burns Silver badge

    @Dax Farrer

    Simply making an unsupported statement calling me misinformed because I cited an authoritative source that did not back up your prejudices just makes you look silly. If you were one of my employees and you did that during project discussions, you’d be shown the door in short order.

    William Rathje Director of the Garbage Project in the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology and Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University has been studying landfills since the 1970’s. The data on the fact that paper in landfills degrades as slowly as plastic is from work there and elsewhere. The reason is that properly constructed landfills are designed to keep out groundwater to prevent groundwater contamination. Due to that, the moisture in them is relatively low which is why paper does not degrade in them.

    As for the energy and pollution aspects of paper vs plastic bags, no one with any real ecology/chemistry background (like myself) disputes the figures I cited that are easily viewable at . The Sierra Club also agrees with them (, which should indicate to the ignorant such as yourself that even informed politically motivated folks understand the difference between wishful thinking and scientific facts. You might want to try attending college (a real one, not A&W) some day. In the US, even IT guys, when at college, have to take freshman chemistry and other science courses so they are not completely clueless when it comes to science, facts, logical reasoning, etc.

  21. Daniel B.


    Well, while paper *initial* production is taxing to the environment, recycling paper isn't that much of a polluting industry. My dad used to be a consultor at a newspaper recycling plant about 15 years ago, and the only reason the process was complicated was because of oil-based ink being hard to remove. Someone had an idea about vegetable-based ink, and when they ran the tests on the plant, the paper came fully clean after only the hydrapulper phase. Talk about savings!!!

    Plastic recycling does make sense, as it would help us on the other kind of oil dependency: polymer production. Especially taking in mind this techno-frenzy world we live in, where most gadgets go to the trashcan in 3 years, tops.

  22. Robert Harrison


    Daniel B said: "Especially taking in mind this techno-frenzy world we live in, where most gadgets go to the trashcan in 3 years, tops."

    And here is the crux of the problem. Most new technology, now that it's all manufactured in China at low low prices is usually barely able to last a couple of years. Once again, our own fault for demanding consumer goods at cutting me own throat prices.

    Yesterday's tech was bigger and clunkier and didn't have so many of those glowing lights and whizz bang features but did seem to last a hell of a lot longer.

    E.g. Up until a year or so ago I quite happily existed with a 15+ year old second-hand microwave which eventually gave up as the magnetron failed. Since that time 18 months-2 years ago, I've had three new microwaves, the first two of which both had the PSU go with a pop and hence declared unservicable.

  23. jon lichtenberg
    Dead Vulture

    Real Recycling

    As long as it only costs a few thousand dollars (in the US) to send a shipping container back to China full of PC boards, there will be no real significant change in the way electronic waste is recycled and disposed of.

    First hand experience tells me that, no matter the regulations that say you can't do it, it still goes on.

    I look at the mounds of recycled boards we generate and wish some lightbulb, (low-watt fluorescent of course), would go off showing me a better way. I sure hope it comes.

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