With the technological developments and the change in consumer trends, the amount of electronic waste ending up in water and landfills is increasing yearly. As one of the major electronic components, PCBs are harmful wastes when disposed of improperly. However, it is a rich source of various valuable materials if appropriately handled from the design stage to disposal.
PCB designers play a significant role in decreasing the effects of electronics waste on the environment and human life. To achieve this, we need to consider the PCB design materials we use, their environmental impact and optimize the design process to reduce electronic waste.
The Harmful Effects of Electronic Waste
Each circuit board, from the latest wearable or computer that finds its way into water bodies and landfills, is harmful to the environment. As far as we love the modern, compact PCBs mounted with millions of electronic components, some contain hazardous chemicals that can cause severe health conditions. Cadmium and beryllium minerals found in electronic components cause various cancers in humans. Some electronic devices also contain lead and mercury, which generate severe health conditions for humans when exposed to them for an extended period.
When electronics are poorly disposed of and find their way to water bodies and landfills, these chemicals leak into the environment. At this point, they dissolve and release toxic particles that can be inhaled or consumed by humans.
Recycling of Electronic Waste
To a large extent, you can recycle electronic waste and turn it into valuable materials. Precious minerals like gold, aluminium, and silver can be extracted and reused. Nevertheless, recycling electronic waste is easy when designers consider it from the initial manufacturing stage.
There are complex processes required in sorting, extracting, cleaning, and minimizing the size of useful components in electronic waste. Besides, since electronic components contain harmful chemicals, rigorous safety measures should be considered to ensure the wellbeing of the workers.