The development of a new type of plastic that combines strength, heat resistance and the ability to be molded into new plastic will hopefully make it possible for easier recycling of plastic electronic casing.
Scientists in the Netherlands have been working on a new type of “thermoset plastic,” which is preferred for electronic devices such as computers and video game consoles because of its hardness and heat resistance. In the past, these plastics have been difficult to recycle because they contain additives that prevent remolding.
The new plastic is built more like a thermoplastic, which allows for more flexibility while maintaining the strength and temperature control. This casing would be melted into a polymer during recycling, then reformed into plastic bars. The process is similar to how steel is recycled, as cans and other scrap metal are melted down and reformed into sheets of steel.
Plastic casing can also be reused on new electronic products, but often times it will end up in landfills or incinerated. The additives used to reinforce the strength of casing, such as Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), can pollute the air if the plastic is incinerated.
The new plastic polymer can also be used for circuit boards and electrical insulation. For in-depth findings by the Netherlands researchers, view their full report.