Poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC) swelling coupled with ball milling was employed for the simultaneous recovery of high-purity Cu and PVC from waste wire harness under ambient conditions. The experimentally determined performances of 15 organic solvents for PVC swelling and phthalate plasticiser extraction were compared with those predicted considering Hansen solubility parameters. As a result, n-butyl acetate and acetone were identified as the two best solvents for adequate PVC swelling without PVC dissolution and almost complete plasticiser extraction within 60 min. The swelling was concluded to contribute to the control of phthalate plasticisers, the use of which in wire harness has recently been limited by the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive. Cables swollen with n-butyl acetate or acetone were subjected to dry ball milling for ~ 60 min to completely separate PVC and Cu and achieve the quantitative recovery of these components from 20-cm-long cables. Thus, this work unveils the high potential of recycling the otherwise non-recyclable long and non-uniform waste wire harness cables and is expected to impact the related (e.g., automotive, electrical, and electronics) industries, contributing to the establishment of a more sustainable society.
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