These days, recycling electronic waste – also known as e-waste –can be a very profitable enterprise. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a metric ton of circuit boards contains 40-800 times more gold and 30-40 times more copper than a metric ton mined for their corresponding ores. From one million defunct cell phones, approximately 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered. Given these economics, it’s no longer a question of why but rather how to recycle e-waste. Processing with various types of mills is but one technique, though hammermills have proved a particularly effective means for recycling many types of e-waste.

However, according to a United Nations report, only 17.4 percent of e-waste generated worldwide gets recycled. Even in the United States, it’s estimated that only 15 percent of e-waste gets recycled, so considerable economic motivations exist to recover more useful materials from electronics that are no longer being used. This e-waste also includes televisions, refrigerators, and other large appliances, stereos, copying machines, lighting fixtures, and other electronic devices. The metals contained within these unrecycled electronics offer golden (and other metallic) opportunities for those looking to upscale their recycling operations or even enter the industry.

Which Machine Do I Need?

How to Recycle E-Waste: Processing with Hammermills

Like any other business, a recycling business looks for the most economical method when considering how to recycle. E-waste processing can use a variety of machines and mills to reduce the size of raw e-waste so that it can more easily be separated and processed further. Hammermills are ideally suited for a wide range of e-waste recycling, especially when it comes to difficult to shred and heavier items. 

A hammermill reduces material in a grinding chamber, where hammers repeatedly strike the e-waste, as the shaft spins to pulverize it. The combined action of hammer blows, impacts against grinding chamber walls, and collision with other material breaks the e-waste down into more manageable particle sizes. Once the hammer mill reduces the material to a small enough size, it passes through a screen. 

Hammers come in various profiles, which include:

  • chiseled
  • notched
  • plain bars 

 A mill’s geometry also plays an essential part in recycling e-waste, processing it into manageable sizes each time a hammer passes the screen or grate, which applies grinding actions that reduce the material further. 

Meanwhile, the following are also key to a hammermill’s performance:

  • design of mill
  • drive system
  • material from which hammers and other reducing implements are made
  • screen size

Benefits of Hammermills: How to Reduce E-Waste Processing Concerns

Though recycling e-waste has its economic benefits, specifically using hammermills for e-waste recycling assists in the following ways: 

  • Flexibility

A hammermill’s simple design gives it remarkable flexibility, enabling it to process various materials into suitable particle sizes for specific applications. Hammermills can also process multiple types of e-waste without needing reconfiguration. 

Depending on production goals, recyclers just need to consider:

  • mill size 
  • hammer type
  • configuration of hammers
  • screen size 

Additionally, hammermills can be customized with wear liners to enhance their robustness, along with coatings on and specific styles of hammers to handle more intensive use. 

  • Effective Scrap Processing

Because some e-waste recycling also involves destroying potentially sensitive data on hard drives or other data storage devices, reducing these materials has an additional objective. In some cases, customers will even pay more to witness the destruction of hard drives to receive a certificate of destruction, pulverizing them to the point that data becomes irretrievable. Hammermills are additionally very effective at handling large amounts of mixed scrap to liberate valuable metals and other materials. These materials will remain in the grinding chamber until they are ground to a point where they can pass through the mill’s screen that covers the discharge opening. 

  • High Production with Minimal Maintenance

Available in different sizes, hammermills offer a versatile means by which a recycler can meet production goals at a lower price point. For example, a mid-sized, properly configured hammermill can reduce about 2500 hard drives in an hour, whereas a shredder with similar throughput capacity will cost as much as quadruple the price of a hammermill. Additionally, a shredder’s knives tend to dull quickly, requiring monthly change-outs, while a set of reversible hammers will last approximately a year. 

How to Recycle E-Waste: Processing Alternative Using Rotor Mills

While hammermills are particularly good at processing a wide range of defunct electronic devices, other types of multi-purpose mills also perform well in recycling operations. When looking at how to recycle e-waste, processors should also consider the enhanced benefits Rotor Mills can provide. Known as “long gap” mills due to the long, ring-shaped gap between the mill’s inlet and where it discharges reduced material. 

Rotor Mills use an internal rotor that spins at high speeds in order to pulverize particles into small sizes, using the turbulence generated to cause them to collide with each other. They feature heavy-duty bearings, which are positioned outside the grinding chamber to prevent product contamination, to provide stability while in operation. Rotor mills capabilities include: 

  • Ability to handle various materials
  • Produces high output of finely milled material 
  • Reduces time and cost for processing 
  • Simultaneously coats and mixes

A broad spectrum of industrial applications makes rotor mills useful in a number of sectors, including metallurgy, waste management, chemical processing, and energy.