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DETIC position on adhesives and recyclability


DETIC members support the need for eco-design to encourage end-of-life reuse and recycle solutions for electronic products and components. The goals for reducing waste and ensuring full circularity of the economy go far beyond what economic actors alone can achieve.

The value proposition of adhesives and sealants is an integral part of many global value chains. Although the sustainability of next-generation goods benefits from our technologies, we would like to better explain to the recycling industries how adhesives and sealants perform at their end of life.

Adhesives are an outstanding and versatile fixing solution. The use of appropriate adhesive bonding solutions to facilitate repair and recycle should be properly planned and engineered during a product’s design phase. Adhesive solutions do not impede recycling: by applying innovative solutions that offer debonding-on-command-type adhesives, bonded components for repair or recycling are readily separated. Adhesive and sealant products are available which can debond on demand, using ultraviolet or electromagnetic irradiation that is focused on the bonding line and is non-destructive to the assembled parts. Other debonding solutions entail chemical, thermal or mechanical techniques.

The use of adhesives as a joining technology extends the life span of products and components, offering greater durability and waterproofing capabilities. Adhesives also bring many advantages to the manufacturing process, such as energy and material efficiency. As regards the climate goals stipulated in the EU’s Green Deal, the complete life cycle of a product should be taken into account. Modern thin and seamless device designs are only achievable using structural adhesive solutions.

Joints bonded adhesively can be separated, thanks to their thermal properties – and separated materials are generally available for reuse.

Although ‘adhesive bonding’ is technically classified as a ‘non-detachable’ joining technology, this is not a fundamental obstacle to recycling if used correctly. Recycled secondary raw materials reduce the EU’s dependence on primary raw materials. The use of secondary raw materials responds to the basic idea of a circular economy and can lead to reducing raw material costs in the EU.

Adhesion and bonding comprise a very active research field for both academics and industry. In recent decades, significant progress has been made in this area, particularly in the field of ‘debond-on-command’ systems. This type of adhesive technology is attractive to users and fulfils their requirements by providing both easy-to-assemble and easy-to-remove properties. The applications suitable for such systems are not limited and include various fields such as electronics, construction, industry and even medical devices. While heat and light have proved the most popular trigger mechanisms for inducing changes to adhesion in switchable systems, new chemistries have been proposed with the potential to overcome any inherent limitations in terms of accessibility and/or transparency which are typically encountered by heat- and/or light-mediated systems. Further developments may lead to more general use of this technology and impact – for instance, disassembling processes or managing product end of life.