How to strip cables to free the copper inside?

E-waste collectors in countries like Ghana collect cables and then burn them to get rid of the plastic and then sell the copper. This process is not environmental friendly and harms their health. I'm working on a project to find better ways to treat imported e-waste.

Is there a better way to strip cables that would not imply burning, and that would respect the worker's health?


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You should be able to make your own system using a couple of course grinding wheels. Make them adjustable so you can pinch them together. The more you can pinch them and crush the insulation the more effective it will be. Have the system over a pool of water so anything that falls out can be sorted. Likely the insulation will float on the water while any bits of metal will sink.

Heck with a strong enough drive motor and 5 or 6 grinding wheels per side you could have about a 1 foot wide area to feed a bundle of wires into. If you can set it up so 1 side spins a bit faster or slower then the other you'll really get things stripped off in a hurry.
rf.font (author)  mpilchfamily4 years ago
Thanks! "Grinding" was a concept I hadn't heard before for this kind of activity. Just to make it sure, are we talking about wheels like this one?

The separation system based on water seems very convenient and low-cost, I actually hadn't thought of that.
Yes any grinding wheel like that will do the trick. Especially if you have one set of wheels spinning a bit faster or slower than the other set. It would probably take a few passes on a bundle of wires but should be quite effective if breaking up the insulation so it will fall off or be washed off. But the difference in speeds and keeping the wheels as close together as possible so they do crush the wires a bit will make the process much faster.

Most recycling systems will grind and sift things before dropping in into a water bath to help separate things. Paper and Plastics will typically float while glass and metal sink. Then they can further separate things down the line. The water can constantly be reused and later filtered before dumping. Or left to evaporate so nothing gets dumped into a stream.
rf.font (author)  mpilchfamily4 years ago
Thanks! I've taken down note of your suggestion.
KilianPG4 years ago
Maybe some like this in cheaper/free version on minor scale?:
rf.font (author)  KilianPG4 years ago
Maybe. This one has a nice way of selecting cables based on width. But it has to be much cheaper.

I'm wondering if shredding would be the best option, because sorting out cables one by one can be time consuming.

Thanks Mr K.!
onrust4 years ago

Its a long list but the information is out there and you CAN BUILD IT YOURSELF! Good luck my fellow, unfortunately if people can get away with it, burning is very easy, low cost, and fast.
rf.font (author)  onrust4 years ago

I've extracted several good ideas from the videos, as I can see very well the pieces involved in the machine: the rolling ones and the blade. I guess that something of the kind could be done for small cables like computer cables. If you want to have a look at the problem I'm trying to solve, here is one short video (6min) where you can see the burning right away:

I'm considering also shredding and sorting, like with this one bicycle-powered:

Is there maybe a shredding and sorting technology that you know about?

onrust rf.font4 years ago
First of all.... there is more to the problem:

Its our garbage your dealing. BUT....I'd like to help.

This is just an idea and it could be gas powered or electric.
Why don't you get this going as a forum topic.
rf.font (author)  onrust4 years ago
Hi there, I think you posted the same link to the video twice :)

You have a point, there is e-waste ilegal export and this should not happen. Computers arrive to Ghana as "second hand IT equipment", and that's not true in at least 40% of the cases, it's just e-waste. But how can the people in customs tell if a PC works or not?

But: there is another point, there are people making a living out of e-waste in Ghana. Small wages, but a living anyway. So there's a moral dilemma. Stopping the e-waste exporting or stopping this source of income?

My take on this: let's recycle e-waste in America and Europe as well, so that the e-waste flow is gradually reduced and people make a living of it will soon be treating local e-waste, which is growing as well.
onrust rf.font4 years ago
I agree. there is funding here to do such things but it is done where you are at the land's and peoples health expense. You REALLY SHOULD POST THIS AS A FORUM TOPIC AND GET MANY MORE PEOPLE INVOLVED. I'm not screaming at you I'm just saying the outcome will produce many many more hits (over time). You cant go wrong.
rf.font (author)  onrust4 years ago

Ok, thanks, I posted this in the community:
onrust onrust4 years ago
This is the one I use and here is a direct link on where to get it.
It works on more than romex.
rf.font (author)  onrust4 years ago

This one seems to be a very cheap tool, and this would be an important consideration in the low resource environment where this would be deployed. Any chance a tool like this could be built DIY?
onrust rf.font4 years ago
Youtube is your friend. This page comes up when you search "homemade wood chipper":
onrust onrust4 years ago
You notice all the answers that have come up skip over your E-waste issue from the start. We know nothing about E-waste I'm sad to say. Your taking on a huge issue and I commend you.
Kiteman4 years ago
Slit along the insulation until there is enough to get a grip on, then simply hold the copper and the insulation in separate hands and riiiiip.

If you're going to do a lot, use two pairs of pliers to get your grip.
rf.font (author)  Kiteman4 years ago
Thanks for the tips!

What I'm looking for is a tool to do a lot of cable stripping. The cables usually come entangled and are small (they come from PCs, or small electronic appliances), and taking them one by one takes a long time, therefore people prefer to burn them instead.

So a solution that is able to process a great deal of cables would be better for this.