Is PCB Waste Really A Problem?
Compared to the past 100 years, PCB industry really experienced an amazing expansion from using brass wire and pieces of wood to etched copper traces and fiberglass substrates. There are millions of PCBs in existence today, and that number will be expanded day by day.
The funny thing is that we design PCBs to last for years and years, but the devices they power often only last a few. So consumers have to throw them out and buy the new gadget. Obviously, this will cause countless electronic waste.
Is PCB waste really a problem? Not only is PCB rubbish real, but the durability and toxicity of PCBs also make it a problem.
Environmental groups estimate that 25,000,000 tons of electronic waste (e-waste) is produced worldwide every year. About 82% e-waste ends up in landfills. While we take pride in our PCB designs, the devices they power are often made to a lower standard. Our PCB might last 20 years, but the smart fork they put it in only lasts 1 year. When that bad idea is buried in a landfill the PCB inside will still be there for years, leaching toxins into the ground.
Well, what if a board is recycled instead of thrown in a landfill? Most recycling processes are hazardous and have serious health risks. In addition, they are labor intensive. This means that boards have to be shipped to countries with low labor costs for recycling. These logistical tricks still ultimately result in high PCB recycling costs. It is said that biodegradable PCBs can solve this problem to some extent, hope it is really useful.