Podcast: Episode #13 - Improving recycling across the board

2nd October 2020
Joe Bush

In this episode of the Electronic Specifier Insights podcast we will be talking to Jack Herring, Founder of Jiva Materials, a sustainability startup company that has developed the world's first fully recyclable printed circuit board (PCB).

Last year 54 million tonnes of electronic waste was generated - growing at a rate of two and a half million tonnes every year, which well outweighs any other waste stream. Eight percent of the 50 million tonnes of e-waste that was generated globally last year came from printed circuit boards (PCBs).

There are significant amounts of precious metals that go into the 18 billion square metres of PCBs that are manufactured each year. In order for those precious metals to be recycled, they have to be separated from the PCBs’ other primary materials – namely fibreglass and epoxy – which enter the same waste stream as plastic.

To extract the precious metals the PCBs have to be shredded down and incinerated – a very environmentally unfriendly process, which takes place at sites like Agbogbloshie, the world’s largest e-waste dump, located near Accra, the capital of Ghana. Indeed, 64% of e-waste shipments that currently leave Europe are sent to Africa.

To paint an accurate picture of these e-waste dumps, Agbogbloshie is more commonly nicknamed Sodom for the open fires used to extract metal from old electronics. Some 250,000 tonnes of electronics and appliances are sent there every year. The scrap that is extracted here is sold to metal traders and exported as raw materials. Developed countries are not immune for the impact of e-waste either. Seventy percent of all toxic materials in landfill now come from e-waste, presenting a major environmental issue.

Startup Jiva Materials is raising awareness of the inefficient handling of e-waste and has developed a new material to offer a solution - Soluboard. Patent pending, it is a competitively priced, flax-based product that is fully biodegradable, non-toxic, and has been designed to make PCBs fully recyclable.

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