Biotechnological strategies for the recovery of valuable and critical raw materials from waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) - A review

J Hazard Mater. 2019 Jan 15;362:467-481. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2018.08.050. Epub 2018 Aug 17.


Critical raw materials (CRMs) are essential in the development of novel high-tech applications. They are essential in sustainable materials and green technologies, including renewable energy, emissionfree electric vehicles and energy-efficient lighting. However, the sustainable supply of CRMs is a major concern. Recycling end-of-life devices is an integral element of the CRMs supply policy of many countries. Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is an important secondary source of CRMs. Currently, pyrometallurgical processes are used to recycle metals from WEEE. These processes are deemed imperfect, energy-intensive and non-selective towards CRMs. Biotechnologies are a promising alternative to the current industrial best available technologies (BAT). In this review, we present the current frontiers in CRMs recovery from WEEE using biotechnology, the biochemical fundamentals of these bio-based technologies and discuss recent research and development (R&D) activities. These technologies encompass biologically induced leaching (bioleaching) from various matrices,biomass-induced sorption (biosorption), and bioelectrochemical systems (BES).

Keywords: Bioleaching; Bioprecipitation; Biosorption; Biotechnologies; Critical metals; Electronic waste.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autotrophic Processes
  • Biomass
  • Biotechnology / methods*
  • Electricity
  • Electrochemistry
  • Electrolysis
  • Electronic Waste / analysis*
  • Electronics
  • Metallurgy
  • Metals / analysis*
  • Waste Management


  • Metals