This leading Cambridge-based processor of electronic waste (e-waste) has teamed up with a local college to develop intelligent robotic solutions for more efficient e-waste recycling.
With rapid advances in cellphone, computer and television technology, e-waste is the fastest-growing sector of solid waste, generating 40 to 50 million tons worldwide annually. But only 15 to 20 per cent of e-waste is currently recycled, meaning much of it ends up in landfills, where toxic materials can leach into the environment.
More efficient e-waste recycling solutions are urgently needed, so Greentec and a research team at Conestoga
are taking up the challenge. Supported by OCE’s Voucher for Innovation and Productivity II (VIP II)
program, they developed a robotic cutting tool for dismantling and recycling Flat Panel Displays (FPDs) that is five times faster than manual processing. FPDs contain precious metals but also toxic lead and mercury, making the valuable metals difficult to extract. The new system enables operators to safely separate the toxic components and recover more material that can be sold and re-used.
In a follow-up VIP I project, the team developed a robotic solution for dismantling and recycling computer hard drives of various sizes while removing more valuable materials than the traditional method of shredding.
Greentec and Conestoga are continuing their collaboration in a new five-semester VIP II project to develop a fully automated robotic system for FPD recycling, using sophisticated machine learning algorithms to sort and disassemble FPDs of all models and types. This advance is expected to significantly increase processing capacity, profits and employee safety for Greentec and, once commercialized, benefit Ontario manufacturers and e-waste processors while greatly reducing e-waste in landfills.