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E-Waste and Battery Recycling: Technology, Design, and Challenges

Learn all you need to know about sustainable recycling of e-waste and batteries, from dismantling devices to evaluating economics.

812 enrolled on this course

Directly above shot of a worker with old smart phone and tablets at table for recycling

E-Waste and Battery Recycling: Technology, Design, and Challenges

812 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 5 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

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  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    5 hours
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See how recycling mobile devices is important to overall environmental design

Phones are an example of electronic devices with a short lifespan that contain many critical elements necessary for the production and storage of renewable energy and maintaining our standard of living. These resources are scarce and need to be recovered through recycling, which can be costly in terms of energy and emissions.

This four-week course from EIT RawMaterials introduces every element of WEEE recycling, from recycling lithium batteries to recovering plastics and trace metals. Current and emerging technologies will be examined to ensure a circular economy and good environmental design, now and well into the future.

Learn the basic principles of mobile phone recycling

During the first part of this course, you’ll cover the engineering aspects involved in mobile phone recycling. This includes identifying the mix and composition of materials.

You’ll also learn about the various recycling methods that are possible (dismantling, sorting, and element separation) and their associated risks and safety issues.

Understand the managerial aspects of recycling and eco-design

On the second part of this course, you’ll focus on mobile phone recycling strategies, learning how to use them to ensure intelligent environmental design.

You’ll see how incorporating eco-design principles leads to a sustainable circular economy, achieving the ultimate goal of less waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

Be a part of sustainable environmental design

Ultimately, this course will show you how to deploy current and emerging technologies to deal with mobile phone WEEE in the most energy-efficient, emission-minimising ways possible.

After successfully completing this course, you’ll be equipped with the engineering and managerial knowledge to be part of the WEEE recycling solution.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Life in our modern-day digitalized society is based on the use of electronic devices for business, transport, entertainment and communication. They are constantly exchanged for newer and more advanced models. Today, only 20% of electronic waste is recycled. Meanwhile, we continue to extract the world’s finite resources at a rapid pace. This needs to change, and it needs to change now. We need to find another way to be able to produce all the elements that our society needs. Recycling is an important aspect of the future economy. This MOOC is devoted to technicians, to engineers, to researchers, or any student that wants to be involved in the world of recycling. You’ll learn about multiple recycling methods.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds We also dive into the industrial state of the art and future laboratory developments. It will be very good if they get the basic knowledge in the techniques, and also get inspired to use it either in their research or in their career. The electronics are part of our everyday life. What do you do without your mobile phone?


  • Week 1

    WEEE and their chemical content

    • European urban mining: resources and recycling

      This activity discusses the role of some elements in new technologies and renewable energy production. You will learn to identify critical elements, which are both essential for our economy and come with a high supply risk.

    • E-waste recycling across the globe

      A smartphone is a good example of WEEE (Waste from Electronic and Electrical Equipment). A smartphone contains up to 45 differents metals. Most of them are critical or valuable and require specific treatment to recycle.

    • Lithium-ion batteries and their specific aspect

      Lithium batteries are a challenge. The market is rapidly increasing, and the technology is changing rapidly. Recycling lithium batteries can be very risky.

    • E-waste treatment and safety issues

      This activity explores WEEE management: from collection to recycling; depollution of WEEE and safety issues; toxicity and impacts of dioxins and furans; and short- and long-term effects of exposure to hazardous substances.

    • Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)

      This activity will define Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), and using phones and cars as examples explain how LCA can be used to quantify advantages and disadvantages of a technology.

    • Reflection: WEEE and their chemical content

      What have you learned about WEEE and the chemical content of these devices?

  • Week 2

    Industrial recycling and thermal methods of recycling

    • Mechanical processing and sorting on the industrial scale

      Challenges in WEE collection and recycling by mechanical methods. How to dismantle and separate WEEE and how to separate and sort polymers before thermal treatments.

    • Pyrometallurgical processing theory

      In the state of the art, e-waste recycling is dominated by pyrometallurgical routes. The different techniques using heat are discussed. They decompose organics and deliver liquid metals.

    • Pyrometallurgical processing on the industrial scale

      We describe some industrial processes and discuss the pros and cons of pyrometallurgy.

    • Industrial applications of WEEE processing

      Some complete industrial applications are presented that show the complementarity between pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy.

    • Hydrometallurgical processing of spent batteries

      This activity describes the specific aspects of recycling batteries. Where pyrometallurgy meets hydrometallurgy.

    • Conclusion on Week 2: physical methods and pyrometallurgy

      Let's conclude Week 2. The test in this activity will help you validate your learning on pyrometallurgy from this week.

  • Week 3

    Hydrometallurgy: how to recover materials from waste

    • Introduction to hydrometallurgy

      This week you will learn about the basics of hydrometallurgy, including a closer look at the first step: leaching. You will learn about the principles of leaching, the equipment that is used, and how waste is managed.

    • Leaching

      This week dives deeper into leaching. You will learn about thermodynamics and kinetics, and about controlling your process via pH, potential, or changing the oxidation state.

    • How metals are separated using precipitation

      In this activity you will learn how to separate metals via precipitation, including the principles and how to achieve separation and then recovery. This activity also covers the industrial applications of precipitation.

    • Solvent extraction of metals

      Solvent extraction is the most common method used in the recycling of Li-ion batteries nowadays. You will learn about the principles, equipment, and how it is applied in industry.

    • Metal recovery through ion exchange (IX)

      Ion exchange (IX) is widely applied in metal production and purification. You will learn about the principles, types of resins and columns, and about how ion exchange is used in the recycling and metallurgical sectors.

    • Conclusion of Week 3: Solution chemistry and hydrometallurgy

      A lot of material has been covered this week! Let's wrap up Week 3 by reviewing key terminology and processes in hydrometallurgy.

  • Week 4

    Emergent recycling methods

    • Extra challenges around rare and strategic raw materials

      Electrochemical methods can be used to reduce metals, to purify metals such as copper, or to recover rare or precious platinum group metals.

    • Selective separation of oxides

      This activity describes more academic and fundamental approaches for recovering metal oxides with different acido-basic character.

    • Scaling up and integrating new green emerging methods I: New chemical methods

      Emergent technologies use new solvents such as non aqueous phases, molten salts or supercritical fluids. They also use new reaction methods such as mechanochemistry.

    • Scaling up and integrating II: Advanced mechanical and thermal preparation

      The activity describes advanced physical treatment such as microwaves, plasma and sonochemistry. Such techniques are promising for the recycling of uncommon systems such as thin films (In, Ta) or magnets (rare earths).

    • Future trends in battery recycling strategies

      An increasing fraction of lithium batteries will have to be recycled to meet the need for Li, Co and even Ni resources. Batteries will have to be eco-designed and low-cost methods will have to be developed.

    • Conclusion on Week 4 on Emergent recycling methods and the future of recycling

      This section allows you to get the essential points out of the emerging recycling methods presented.

When would you like to start?

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Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify the valuable chemicals that can be recycled in batteries and waste of electronic and electrical equipment
  • Compare the different recycling methods: mechanical, pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgy routes 
  • Calculate the energy cost of some recycling processes using simple thermodynamics 
  • Design and optimise new processes based on the combination of well proven techniques with new innovative solutions 
  • Assess the chemical risks and harmful emissions to the environment during the process of recycling WEEE 
  • Develop awareness of the necessity to recycle but also of the compromises to be made for efficient and safe recycling

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone working in laboratories and industries that will include mobile phone recycling in their research and industrial programmes. Students, chemical sector professionals, technicians, and engineers will all find it helpful.

Who will you learn with?

Professor of Inorganic Chemistry
Chimie Paristech

Who developed the course?

EIT RawMaterials

Initiated and funded by the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology), a body of the European Union, EIT RawMaterials is the largest European raw materials partnership.

Chimie ParisTech – PSL

Chimie ParisTech - PSL provides an original and complete education, from bachelor’s to doctorate degrees, while conducting cutting-edge research covering the entire spectrum of chemistry.

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

NTNU is the largest of the eight universities in Norway, and, as its name suggests, has the main national responsibility for higher education in engineering and technology.

Chalmers University of Technology

Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg conducts research and education in technology and natural sciences at a high international level.

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  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 20 Mar 2024

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