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Separation of copper and polyvinyl chloride from thin waste electric cables: A combined PVC-swelling and centrifugal approach

Xu, Jing, Kumagai, Shogo, Kameda, Tomohito, Saito, Yuko, Takahashi, Kenshi, Hayashi, Hiroshi, Yoshioka, Toshiaki
Waste management 2019 v.89 pp. 27-36
acetone, ambient temperature, copper, electrical equipment, environmental protection, ethyl acetate, mixing, plasticizers, poly(vinyl chloride), recycling, solvents
Waste electric cables from end-of-life vehicles and electronic and electrical equipment present a significant problem in terms of environmental protection and resource recycling. Herein we detail a novel recycling method for thin waste electric cables, by combining polyvinyl chloride (PVC) swelling and centrifugal separation to simultaneously recover PVC and high-purity copper. PVC coverings were swollen in an organic solvent at ambient temperatures, which creates a gap between the covering and the copper wire and facilitates centrifugal separation. Electric cables (12 g) were 100% separated, and more than 95% of the plasticizer was extracted by stirring in 100-mL acetone or ethyl acetate that facilitated the separate recovery of copper, the PVC covering, and the plasticizer. In contrast, >97% separation, with <10% extraction of the plasticizer, was achieved with a mixture of 10 mL butyl acetate and 90 mL water. High-purity copper and PVC with controlled plasticizer content were recovered, which is highly advantageous for recycling both copper and PVC.