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Determining Metal Content in Waste Printed Circuit Boards and their Electronic Components

Original scientific paper

Journal of Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environment Systems
Volume 8, Issue 3, September 2020, pp 590-602
DOI: https://doi.org/10.13044/j.sdewes.d7.0312
Aleksandra Anić Vučinić1, Gordan Bedeković2, Renato Šarc3, Vitomir Premur1
1 Faculty of Geotechnical Engineering, University of Zagreb, Hallerova 7, 42000 Varaždin, Croatia
2 Faculty of Mining, Geology and Petroleum Engineering, University of Zagreb, Pierottieva 6, 10 000 Zagreb, Croatia
3 Chair of Waste Processing Technology and Waste Management, Montanuniversitaet Leoben, Franz-Josef-Strasse 18/I, 8700 Leoben, Austria


A wide range of published scientific articles on metal content in printed circuit boards show that it is necessary to determine the content of individual metals. The aim of this paper is to show how metal content varies according to the type and age of waste electrical and electronic equipment collected in the Republic of Croatia. Samples of cell phones, TV sets, and computers are collected. The metal content is determined for electronic components and printed circuit board base plates separately for different grain sizes (1-4 mm, 0.5-1 mm, 0.1-0.5 mm and < 0.1 mm). The results show that electronic components form a larger part of printed circuit board mass fraction depending on the equipment age and type. Generally, electronic components do have a higher mass fraction for most metals (like: aluminium, copper, nickel, zinc, gold, and silver in most cases) in comparison to printed circuit board base plates, but for certain metals (like: lead, tin) the opposite applies. The electronic components of larger grain sizes (1-4 mm and 0.5-1 mm) contain more aluminium, copper, and zinc, and less lead, while the smaller grain size fractions are richer in gold. The bare boards base plates of larger grain sizes contain more copper, lead and tin, while the smallest grain size class (< 0.1 mm) contains more aluminium and gold. No clear trends are noticed in the case of silver and lead.

Keywords: Electrical and electronic equipment, Printed circuit boards, Metal content, Waste, Recycling.

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