Review on Microbial remediation of Heavy metals from    E-waste

Pradeepa. R1* Senthil kumar. P1 and Kavitha K.K2


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



Source of Metals Studied


Bioremediation Process/Methods




Cu- rich e-waste

Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans, Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans

Aspergillus niger


Saidan and M.Valix,  2006



Waste Printed circuit board (PCB)

Bacterial consortium enriched from natural acid mine drainge


Yun Xiang,  et al., 2010


Au, Ag




Chatterjee, et al., 2009


Cr, Pb, Cu

Solid & Liquid Waste

Staphylococcus saprophyticus,


Ashok kumar, et al., 2011




mesophilic chemolititrophic bacterial cul­ture of A. ferrooxidans and A. thiooxidans


Anna Mrazikova, 2014



E waste

Chromobacterium violaceum, Pseudomonas fluorescens, Pseudomonas aeruginosa

and Escherichia coli.


Chang jin Liang, et al., 2011


Cu, Al, Zn


Mixed culcture of Acidophilic Bacteria


Nengwu Zhu, et al., 2011


Cu, Ni, Al, Zn

Electronic scrap



Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans


Willner, et al., 2013 and

 Kavitha, 2014.


Cu, Ni, Al, Zn

Electronic scrap

Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans, Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans


Brandl, et al., 2001


Cu, Ni, Sn, Pb, Zn, Al

Electronic scrap

Aspergillus niger

Penicillium simplicissimum


Brandl, et al., 2001




Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans


Tao yang, et al., 2009



Printed wire boards

Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans, Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans

A. ferroxidans + A. thiooxidans


Jingwei wang et al., 2009


Ni, Cu, Al, Zn, Pb, Sn

Electronic scrap

Sulfobacillus thermosulfidooxidans


Ilyas, et al., 2007


Cu, Al, Zn, Ni

Electronic scrap

Thermosulfidooxidans sulfobacillus + Thermoplasma acidophilum

Column Bioleaching

Ilyas, et al., 2010



Printed electronic circuits

Chromobacterium violaceum


Faramarzi, et al 2004


Li, Co

Lithium batteries

Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans


Joanna willner, 2013


Li, Co

Lithium batteries

Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans

Bacterial leaching

Debaraj Mishra, et al., 2008


Ag, Au, Pt

Jewellery waste, automobile catalytic converter, electronic scrap

Chromobacterium violaceum,  Pseudomonas fluorescens, Pseudomonas plecoglossicida


Brandl, et al., 2008


Ni,Co, Cr &Mn


Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans


Barrie Johnson, et al., 2013


Zn, Ni, Pb


Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans



Joanna willner, 2012


Ni, Cd

Spent Ni - Cd batteries:

Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans


O.Velgosova, , et al., 2012 and O.Velgosova, et al., 2014


Cu, Au, Zn, Fe

E  waste

Chromobacterium violaceum, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Pseudomonas




Jatindra Kumar Pradhan, et al.,  2012


Au, Cu, Ni

Cellular phone PCBs

and Computer gold finger motherboards

Aspergillus niger MXPE6 + Aspergillus niger MX7,


Jorge Enrique Madrigal-Arias, et al., 2014


Cu, Zn, Ni


Acidiphilium acidophilum



 Rivero Hudec, et al., 2009


Cu, Cd, Pb

Electroplating industrial

effluent samples

Bacillus sp, Pseudomonas sp. Micrococcus sp.


 Johncy Rani, et al., 2010



Ni, Au, Cu

Nickel powder, PCB scrap

C. violaceum, P. fluorescens, B. megaterium

Microbial mobilization

Mohammad  Faramarzia, et al., 2004


Pb, As, Cd, Ni, Cu, Zn, Al, Co, Mn

Mine Waste Disposal Sites

Sulfobacillus sp.

Sulfidobacillus sp.

Acetobacter acidophilum

Alcaligenes entrophus

Pseudomonas putida


 Petrisor, et al., 2002




E  waste

Pseudomonas aeruginosa JN102340


 Kumar, 2014




E  waste

Aspergillus fumigatus


Rajesh kumar Ramasamy, et al., 2011




E  waste

Aspergillus sp.


Ramasamy Rajesh Kumar, et al., 2012




E  waste

Helminthosporium solani


Savitha, et al., 2010


Ni , Cd

Bio-dissolution of spent Nickel-Cadmium batteries

At. ferrooxidans



Cerruti, et al., 1998


Ni , Cd

Spent Nickel-Cadmium batteries

Indigenous acidophilic thiobacilli



Zhu et al , 2003



Ni , Cd

Spent  Ni-Cd battery


At. ferrooxidans, & At. thiooxidans



O. Velgosova, et al.,  2010



PCB of waste Computer

Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans



 Choi, et al.,  2004


Cu, Pb, Zn

Printed wire boards

Acidithiobacillus ferroxidans,+ Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans



Wang, et al., 2009


Cu, Ni, Zn


Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans


Liang, et al., 2010



Waste photographic films

Bacillus subtilis ATCC 6633

Enzymatic Method

Nakiboglu, et al., 2001



Waste X-ray film



Enzymatic Method

Shankar, et al., 2010



X-ray films

Bacillus sphaericus

Enzymatic Method

Singh, et al., 1999



Lith Film


Bacillus sp. B21–2

Enzymatic Method

Masui, et al.,2004


Cr, Cu, Ni, Co, Cd, and Zn

Dumping municipal soil area

Pseudomonas spp. Bacillus spp


Ersoy Sevgi, et al., 2009



Contaminated site

Pseudomonas aeruginosa S22


El-Sayed, et al.,2008



Mine waste

Pseudomonas aeruginosa


Michael Z. and Hu,et al.,1996


Hg, Pb, Ag, ZN, Cu,

Industry waste

Bacillus species


Meghraj Hookoom, et al., 2013


Ar, Pb, Cd

E waste

A.Thioxidans, Micrococcus roseus, T. ferrooxidans, Aspergillus fumigates, A. niger


Stephen , Macnaughtont, 1999,and Shuchi Patel et al., 2014


Cr, Ur, Cd, Pb 

Industrial waste

Bacillus sphaericus, Myxococcus Xanthus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Streptoverticillium

Cinnamoneum, Rhizopus arrhizus, Saccharomyces cerevisiae


Hu, et al., 1996, Atkinson, et al., 1998;  Ahalya et al., 2003 and Shuchi Patel etal, 2014


Cr, Ur, Pb

Heavy metal presenting waste

Bacillus circulans ,

Bacillus megaterium,

Deinococcus radiodurans ,

Micrococcus luteus,

Aspergillus niger,

Monodictys pelagic



Demirba , 2001;  Srinath, et al., 2002,  Malik, 2004; Juwarkar, Yadav, 2010 and  Shuchi Patel, et al., 2014


Ur, Cr, Cd

Heavy metal presenting waste

Anaeromyxobacter sp.  

Clostridium sphenoides

Halomonas sp.

Serratia sp.

Fusarium oxysporum

Rhizopus oryzae


Lovley and Coates, 1997; Francis, 1998; Malik, 2004 and Shuchi Patel, et al., 2014



Electronic Waste

Acidithiobacillus bacteria


 Saidan, et al., 2012



Cellular phone Printed circuit board

A. niger MXPE6 and A. niger MX7


Madrigal-Arias, 2015



Printed circuit board

S. thermosulfidooxidans


Rodrigues, et al.,  2015


Ni, Cu, Al, Zn

Electronic scrap

S. thermosulfidooxidans and acidophilic heterotrophy (code A1TSB)

Bio solubilization

Tang, et al., 2016



E waste landfill

Bacillus licheniformis


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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