Review on Microbial remediation of Heavy metals from E-waste

1*&1 Research scholar, Department of Environmental and Herbal Science, Tamil University, Thanjavur- 613010

2Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental and Herbal Science, Tamil University, Thanjavur- 613010

*Author to whom correspondence should be addressed/E-Mail:

Received: Mar 2017 / Accepted:  Mar 2017/ Published: Mar 2017

ABSTRACT: E-waste is an end of the life span of electric or electronic appliances which contain the complex heavy metals. It is causing severe health concerns for millions of people around the world, mostly in the developing nations of India, Africa, Europe, etc. More of these wastes are ending up in dumping yards and recycling centers, cause a new challenge to the environment. In general electronic gadgets are intended to make our lives happier and simpler, but their toxicity, removal and recycling becomes a health horrendous. Many research papers have been reported on microbial remediation of heavy metals present in E-waste. The pioneer work was reported on 1998, bio-dissolution of spent nickel batteries using Thiobacillus ferroxidans, which is the first step to recycle and discarded batteries by using microbes as eco-friendly method.  This review paper provides an insight in to the bioremediation of heavy metals from E-waste by potential microorganisms, in an eco-friendly way and provide pathway for current researchers.

Keywords: E-waste, Bio remediation, Heavy metals and minerals.


The revolution brought by information and communication in twentieth century brought enormous changes in the way we organize our lives, our economies, industries and institutions (Devendra S Verma, 2014). In most of the developing and under-developed countries, e-waste is dumped directly into the soil without any treatment; often due to weak environmental regulations and financial problems. For profitable recovery of materials and sustainable environment, the efficient recycling of electronic waste is very necessary, and is still regarded as a major challenge for today’s society (Shubham Gupta, 2014).

According to Centre of Science and Environment’s latest reports, every year our country is producing 3, 50,000 tonnes of e-waste, 5,0000 tonnes of electronic waste is imported but only 19000 tonnes is rejected. Out of total e-waste 10 states contribute about 70% of e-waste, leading states are- Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh.  E-waste is highly complex to handle due to its composition. It is made up of multiple components some of which contain toxic substances that have an adverse impact on human health and environment if not handled properly and mixed with municipal waste.

Electronic wastes can cause widespread environmental damage due to the use of toxic materials in the manufacture of electronic goods (Mehra, 2004). Hazardous materials in one form or the other are present in such wastes primarily consisting of electronic equipment. Even though it is hardly known, E-waste contains toxic substances such as Lead and Cadmium in circuit boards, lead oxide and Cadmium in monitor Cathode Ray Tubes , cables and polyvinyl chloride cable insulation that releases highly toxic dioxins and furans when burned to recover Copper from the wires.

All electronic equipment contains printed circuit boards which are dangerous because of their content of lead. The microorganisms for remediation of complex or co-contaminated system, they must possess tolerance and detoxification abilities towards different types of pollutants. These properties help them prolong and bioremediation in complex and mixed polluted systems like e-waste.

Microbes possessing such novel properties can be either isolated from natural contaminated sources (soil contaminated with e-waste or leachate from e-waste landfill sites), or obtained through engineering processes. Such microbes, individually or as consortia, can be used for decontamination of e-waste. Certain microorganisms with their unique tolerance mechanisms are able to grow and degrade or transform toxicants into nontoxic forms. (Amrik Bhattacharya, 2016).


Categories of E-waste

It can be categories on the basis of hazardous and non- hazardous waste and more than one thousands e- waste comes under this category (Wath et al., 2010). According to the European Union electrical and electronic equipment available on the market have divided e-waste types into ten categories such as Large household Appliances, Small household appliances, IT and telecommunications ,Equipment, Consumer equipment, Light equipment, Electrical and electronic tools, Toys, leisure, and sports, Equipment, Medical devices, Monitoring and control Instruments, Automatic dispensers.


Techniques used to handle E-waste

There are basically four ways in which e-waste has been treated till date. But none has been found to be fully satisfactory. The first and most common one has been storing e-wastes in landfills, but it is replete with all the dangers of leaching.  The hazardous effects are worse in the older or less stringently maintained landfills or dumpsites. The second method commonly used has been to incinerate or burn the goods, but this process releases heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury into the atmosphere. The third and the fourth methods are reusing and recycling of E-wastes. They have been preferable because they increase the lifespan of the products and therefore imply less waste over time. These are the four different and common method used to handle the waste all over the world. Each method has its own drawbacks and limitations. (Bikashdev Chhura, et al., 2015). To facilitate take the edge off e-waste problems, there are investigations in term of the quantity, character and potential environmental and human health impacts of e-waste and broad research into e-waste management.


              Microbial Remediation of Heavy metals present in E-waste

S.No Metals Source of Metals Studied Microorganism Bioremediation Process/Methods Reference
1. Cu Cu- rich e-waste Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans, Acidithiobacillus thiooxidansAspergillus niger Bioleaching Saidan and M.Valix,  2006
2. Cu Waste Printed circuit board (PCB) Bacterial consortium enriched from natural acid mine drainge Bioleachning Yun Xiang,  et al., 2010
3. Au, Ag PCB Manual Chatterjee, et al., 2009
4. Cr, Pb, Cu Solid & Liquid Waste Staphylococcus saprophyticus, Biosorption Ashok kumar, et al., 2011
5. Ni PCB mesophilic chemolititrophic bacterial cul­ture of A. ferrooxidans and A. thiooxidans Bioleaching Anna Mrazikova, 2014
6. Au E waste Chromobacterium violaceumPseudomonas fluorescensPseudomonas aeruginosaand Escherichia coli. Bioleaching Chang jin Liang, et al.,2011
7. Cu, Al, Zn  PCB Mixed culcture of Acidophilic Bacteria Bioleachning Nengwu Zhu, et al., 2011
8. Cu, Ni, Al, Zn
Electronic scrap


Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans Bioleaching Willner, et al.,2013 andKavitha, 2014.
9. Cu, Ni, Al, Zn Electronic scrap Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans, Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans Bioleaching Brandl, et al.,2001
10. Cu, Ni, Sn, Pb, Zn, Al Electronic scrap Aspergillus nigerPenicillium simplicissimum Bioleaching Brandl, et al.,2001
11. Cu PCB Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans Bioleaching Tao yang, et al.,2009
12. Cu Printed wire boards Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans, Acidithiobacillus thiooxidansA. ferroxidans + A. thiooxidans Bioleaching Jingwei wang et al., 2009
13. Ni, Cu, Al, Zn, Pb, Sn Electronic scrap Sulfobacillus thermosulfidooxidans Bioleaching Ilyas, et al.,2007
14. Cu, Al, Zn, Ni Electronic scrap Thermosulfidooxidans sulfobacillus + Thermoplasma acidophilum Column Bioleaching Ilyas, et al.,2010
15. Au Printed electronic circuits Chromobacterium violaceum Bioleaching Faramarzi, et al2004
16. Li, Co Lithium batteries Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans Bioleaching Joanna willner, 2013
17. Li, Co Lithium batteries Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans Bacterial leaching Debaraj Mishra, et al., 2008
18. Ag, Au, Pt Jewellery waste, automobile catalytic converter, electronic scrap Chromobacterium violaceum,  Pseudomonas fluorescens, Pseudomonas plecoglossicida Biomobilization Brandl, et al.,2008
19. Ni,Co, Cr &Mn Ores Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans Biomining Barrie Johnson, et al., 2013
20. Zn, Ni, Pb PCB Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans Bioleaching Joanna willner, 2012
21. Ni, Cd Spent Ni – Cd batteries: Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans Bioleaching O.Velgosova, , et al., 2012 and O.Velgosova, et al., 2014
22. Cu, Au, Zn, Fe E  waste Chromobacterium violaceum, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pseudomonasfluorescens Bioleaching Jatindra Kumar Pradhan, et al.,  2012
23. Au, Cu, Ni Cellular phone PCBsand Computer gold finger motherboards Aspergillus niger MXPE6 + Aspergillus niger MX7, Bioleaching Jorge Enrique Madrigal-Arias, et al., 2014
24. Cu, Zn, Ni PCB Acidiphilium acidophilum Bioleaching  Rivero Hudec, et al., 2009
25. Cu, Cd, Pb Electroplating industrialeffluent samples Bacillus sp, Pseudomonas sp. Micrococcus sp. Biosorption  Johncy Rani, et al., 2010
26. Ni, Au, Cu Nickel powder, PCB scrap C. violaceum, P. fluorescens, B. megaterium Microbial mobilization Mohammad  Faramarzia, et al., 2004
27. Pb, As, Cd, Ni, Cu, Zn, Al, Co, Mn Mine Waste Disposal Sites Sulfobacillus sp.Sulfidobacillus sp.Acetobacter acidophilumAlcaligenes entrophusPseudomonas putida Biosorption  Petrisor, et al.,2002
28. Cd E  waste Pseudomonas aeruginosa JN102340 Biosorption  Kumar, 2014
29. Pb E  waste Aspergillus fumigatus Biosorption Rajesh kumar Ramasamy, et al., 2011
30. Cd E  waste Aspergillus sp. Biosorption Ramasamy Rajesh Kumar, et al., 2012
31. Mn E  waste Helminthosporium solani Biosorption Savitha, et al.,2010
32. Ni , Cd Bio-dissolution of spent Nickel-Cadmium batteries At. ferrooxidans Bioleaching Cerruti, et al.,1998
33. Ni , Cd Spent Nickel-Cadmium batteries Indigenous acidophilic thiobacilli Bioleaching Zhu et al , 2003
34. Ni , Cd Spent  Ni-Cd battery At. ferrooxidans, & At. thiooxidans Bioleaching O. Velgosova, et al.,  2010
35. Cu PCB of waste Computer Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans Bioleaching  Choi, et al.,  2004
36. Cu, Pb, Zn Printed wire boards Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans,Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans Bioleaching Wang, et al.,2009
37. Cu, Ni, Zn PCB Acidithiobacillus thiooxidansAcidithiobacillus ferrooxidans Bioleaching Liang, et al.,2010
38. Ag Waste photographic films Bacillus subtilis ATCC 6633 Enzymatic Method Nakiboglu, et al., 2001
39. Ag Waste X-ray film Conidioboluscoronatus Enzymatic Method Shankar, et al.,2010
40. Ag X-ray films Bacillus sphaericus Enzymatic Method Singh, et al.,1999
41. Ag Lith Film Bacillus sp. B21–2 Enzymatic Method Masui, et al.,2004
42. Cr, Cu, Ni, Co, Cd, and Zn Dumping municipal soil area Pseudomonas spp.Bacillus spp Resistance Ersoy Sevgi, et al., 2009
43. Cd Contaminated site Pseudomonas aeruginosa S22 Resistance El-Sayed, et al.,2008
44. Uranium Mine waste Pseudomonas aeruginosa Biosorption Michael Z. and Hu,et al.,1996
45. Hg, Pb, Ag, ZN, Cu, Industry waste Bacillus species Bioaccumulation Meghraj Hookoom, et al.,2013
46. Ar, Pb, Cd E waste A.Thioxidans, Micrococcus roseus, T. ferrooxidans, Aspergillus fumigates, A. niger Bioleaching Stephen , Macnaughtont, 1999,and Shuchi Patel et al., 2014
47. Cr, Ur, Cd, Pb Industrial waste Bacillus sphaericus, Myxococcus Xanthus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, StreptoverticilliumCinnamoneum, Rhizopus arrhizus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae Biosorption Hu, et al., 1996, Atkinson, et al.,1998;  Ahalya et al., 2003 and Shuchi Patel etal, 2014
48. Cr, Ur, Pb Heavy metal presenting waste Bacillus circulans ,Bacillus megaterium,Deinococcus radiodurans ,Micrococcus luteus,Aspergillus niger,Monodictys pelagic


Bioaccumulation Demirba , 2001;  Srinath, et al., 2002,  Malik, 2004; Juwarkar, Yadav, 2010 and  Shuchi Patel, et al., 2014
49. Ur, Cr, Cd Heavy metal presenting waste Anaeromyxobacter sp.  Clostridium sphenoidesHalomonas sp.Serratia sp.Fusarium oxysporumRhizopus oryzae Biotransformation Lovley and Coates, 1997; Francis, 1998; Malik, 2004 and Shuchi Patel, et al., 2014
50. Cu Electronic Waste Acidithiobacillus bacteria Bioleaching  Saidan, et al.,2012
51. Au Cellular phone Printed circuit board A. niger MXPE6 and A. niger MX7 Bioleaching Madrigal-Arias, 2015
52. Cu Printed circuit board S. thermosulfidooxidans Bioleaching Rodrigues, et al.,  2015
53. Ni, Cu, Al, Zn Electronic scrap S. thermosulfidooxidansand acidophilic heterotrophy (code A1TSB) Bio solubilization Tang, et al.,2016
54. Pb E waste landfill Bacillus licheniformis Biosorption Gayatri, et al.,2017

Ar-Arsenic,Pb- Lead, Cd-Cadmium,Cr- Chromium, U-Uranium, Ni- Nickel, Cu-Copper, Al-Alumnium, Zn-Znic,  Sn-, Co-cobalt, Mn-Manganese, Ag-Silver, Fe-Ferrous, Pt-Platinum, Li-Lithium, Au- Gold



E-Waste containing toxic metals which need to be remediated efficiently from contaminated surroundings.  To reduce the toxic metals effect on environment and living beings. Biological methods one of the potential methods to minimize the toxicity associated with e-waste contaminants in sustainable way. So we need to spread the awareness of proper handling of E-waste such as reduce, reuse and safe recycle process.






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How to cite this article
Pradeepa, R., Senthil kumar, P., & Kavitha, K. K. (2017). Review on Microbial remediation of Heavy metals from E-waste. Int. J. Agr. Life. Sci, 3(1), 123-
130. doi: 10.22573/spg.ijals.017.s12200076.








“The authors declare no conflict of interest”.


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