Why PCB repair is more environmentally friendly than replacement

Looking for faults on a PCB

3 MIN. READ

Electronics are often viewed as a “cleaner” industry than transportation, industrial chemicals and mining. This may be true after the electronics are manufactured and assembled. However, to reach that point, electronic devices such as printed circuit boards (PCBs) rely on all those “dirty” industries. This impacts the environment, and as a result, many PCB customers are turning to repair or recycling to minimize their reliance on newly manufactured PCBs.

PCB repair is more sustainable

PCB manufacture relies on many rare metals. Equipment and chemicals used to extract these rare metals can scar the earth, poison the area near the mine and pump tons of carbon dioxide into the air. Logically, relying on manufacturing replacement PCBs rather than repairing them requires more rare metals and imposes a greater environmental impact.

Eventually, the planet’s rare earth metal resources could dwindle. This will drive up the price of electronics until substitutes can be discovered or invented.

Repairing PCBs, however, keeps as much of these rare elements in the PCB as possible rather than disposing of them. Without the need for replacement rare metals, the mining industry may be able to prolong its supplies and limit its environmental impact.

PCB repair reduces the need for dangerous chemicals

After the extraction of the necessary metals, PCB manufacture might seem like a fairly clean industry. There are no smokestacks, tailings ponds or other outward signs of pollution near PCB factories. However, PCBs and electrical components, like capacitors and chips, rely on many dangerous chemicals for their manufacture, including formaldehyde and phthalates, both of which can poison the environment when they are discarded.

PCB repair, on the other hand, does not require the use of these dangerous chemicals. Fewer replacement PCBs and more repair PCBs will reduce the amount of these poisonous chemicals reaching the environment.

PCB repair keeps PCBs out of the landfill

E-waste is a growing problem because of the increased use of electronics products. E-waste has several impacts on the environment:

  • It contributes to landfills. PCBs are not biodegradable and can last decades.
  • It is more toxic than most other garbage. PCBs and other electronics release toxic substances, like lead, mercury, arsenic and dioxins into the ground, water and air.
  • It can poison wildlife and local residents who come into contact with it.

Repairing PCBs rather than replacing them will prevent those PCBs from entering landfills. This will minimize the release of toxins into the environment.

PCB recycling for PCBs that cannot be repaired

There is a growing trend to reclaim e-waste rather than releasing it into the environment. Recyclers have two primary motivations for implementing these programs:

  • Limit the environmental impact of e-waste.
  • Reclaim and resell rare metals and other valuable elements (like gold, platinum and lithium) from electronics.

Going a step further, studies have investigated the possibility of grinding up e-waste to absorb heavy metals already released into the environment.

PCB repair as part of the solution

PCB repair cannot solve all of the environmental problems caused by PCB manufacture. PCB demand is predicted to grow by about 4% per year for the next 5 years, primarily due to new products and new markets. This growth will continue even if more end-users opt for repair and maintenance rather than buying replacement electronics.

However, combining repair with recycling may give the industry time to develop safer and more environmentally friendly alternatives to the current manufacturing processes.

To repair PCBs, you need to test PCBs. Huntron supplies some of the most effective testing equipment in the industry. To learn more or schedule a demo, please contact us.



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PCB repair as an environmentally friendly alternative

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PCB repair can reduce the impacts of mining rare elements for electronics, reduce the amount of toxic chemicals used to produce new PCBs and prevent PCBs from going to landfills.

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