Joint International Congress and Exhibition "Electronics goes Green 2004" September 6-8, 2004 Berlin, Germany
Materials Recovery from Mobile Phones by the CreaSolv® process
Dr. Andreas Mäurer and Martin Schlummer - Fraunhofer-Institut für Verfahrenstechnik und Verpackung, Freising and Dr. Gerald G. Altnau - CreaCycle GmbH, Grevenbroich.

The European WEEE directive prescribes recycling quotas of 65% and a 75% recovery for mobile phones. This forces recyclers of post-consumer electronic equipment to find economical and ecological feasible waste management approaches. This paper proposes the CreaSolv® process as a waste treatment option, which bases on the dissolution of the polymeric housing materials, separates the single components and thus allows the production of an ABS/PC polymer recyclate as well as the recovery of a metal rich fraction suitable for metal recovery. 

1. WEEE directive drives the development of new separation technologies
The mobile phone sector is one of the fastest growing markets in the IT business.  Hence, from 1995 to 2001 the number of German mobile phone users increased by a factor of 15.  Due to the fast technological progress and the short product lifetimes (suppliers propose a change every second year) huge amounts of waste mobile phones are expected during the next decades.
But even when weight and volume of mobile phones decrease there is a serious concern about the end-of-life management of these devices.  Problems arise from the amount of different materials a mobile consists of and the small masses of the single materials.  For both reasons the dismantling and the recovery of recyclables are man-power intensive, time-consuming and expensive processes.  In comparison the value of the recovered secondary raw materials is low. 
However, the European WEEE directive prescribes recycling quotas of 65% and a recovery of 75% recovery for mobile phones. This forces recyclers of post-consumer electronic equipment to find economical and ecological feasible solutions. 

2. Material separation by the CreaSolv® process

Figure 1: Waste Management of post-consumer mobile phone by the CreaSolv® process

The CreaSolv® process, a polymer recycling process developed by the Fraunhofer-Institute IVV, Freising, Germany, and the CreaCycle GmbH, Grevenbroich, Germany, offers a convenient solution to this problem by treating post-consumer waste mobile phones (WMP) with a suitable organic solvent [1].
This allows
1. an economic and effective dismantling of the mobile phone,
2. a metal-rich fraction, which can be treated for example with well-known metal recovery technologies, and
3. a polymer solution, which can be processed to high quality polymer recyclates.  

3. Polymer recycling by the CreaSolv® process
Having removed the batteries from post-consumer mobile phones, which is an essential state-of-the-art technique, the WMPs can be subjected to the CreaSolv® without any further pre-treatment as e.g. shredding.

Figure 2: The CreaSolv® process yields both, high-quality polymer recyclates and metal rich fractions for recovery

The applicableness of the CreaSolv® bases on the solubility of the main polymer type, ABS/PC in organic solvents. Thus, the WMPs are dissolved in a suitable organic solvent, the solution is separated from
insoluble materials (mainly metals) and precipitated leading to particles of an ABS/PC recyclate (figure 2).
The polymer particles can be subjected to state-of-the-art extrusion of injection moulding processes. As shown for many other polymer systems, this polymer recycling technique yields pure recyclates having material properties well comparable with virgin material [1].

4. Outlook
Since the applied solvent is recycled completely within the process and dismantling rates of 1 ton per day can easily be realised, the CreaSolv® process represents a technological convincing and economic solution.
Up to now, the CreaSolv® process has been realised in laboratory and technical scale. In co-operation with industrial partners we plan the industrial scale-up in the near future.

5. Literature
[1] Mäurer, A.; Schlummer, M.: Good as new. Waste Management World, May-June (2004), pp 33-43.

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