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Electronics Recycling Asia: Automated Answers

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Equipment makers are offering new technologies to help recyclers overcome their challenges.

Recycling Today Staff November 29, 2012

Whether they are decades old or recent start-ups, a number of equipment makers who presented at the Electronics Recycling Asia conference in November say they can offer improved processing methods.

Joe Yob of Creative Recycling, Tampa, Fla., offered the viewpoint of a customer of the BluBox fluorescent lamp recycling system. The BluBox, made by Switzerland-based Blubox Trading AG, is designed to safely recover mercury from several types of obsolete items, including fluorescent lamp bulbs and fixtures and liquid crystal display (LCD) flat screens.

Yob said the BluBox machine is “transportable; it can be plugged in,” and then once it is up and running, it can process 2,200 pounds of LCD screens in an eight-hour shift staffed by three people (or 1,100 pounds of fluorescent lamps).

Yob said Creative is using its BluBox to recycle “fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent lamps, halogens, notebook computers and mobile phones.” The batteries of devices are removed first, he noted.

The outbound products from the BluBox include ferrous scrap, glass, nonferrous metals, circuit board scrap, plastics and “lamp powder that contains rare earths.”

In the same session, Li Tenglong of Germany’s Tomra Sorting Solutions, gave an overview of that company’s many products for the processing of obsolete electronics and the subsequent sorting of secondary commodities.

A new Tomra product is “flying beam technology,” described by Li as a “fourth-generation near-infrared (NIR) spectrometer can separate materials with just two bulbs and beams of light” instead of the 10 used in some previous iterations. This can prevent the problem of an NIR sorter being used after one or two of its bulbs has burned out, unbeknownst to the plant operator who then receives a lower-quality sort.

Alfred Weber of Germany’s BHS-Sonthofen provided an overview of that company’s shredding and sorting equipment. The company offers equipment designed to process end-of-life electronics, auto shredder residue, slags and “other metal compounds,” said Weber.

Thomas Langer of German lighting company OSRAM AG said his company’s system for recycling fluorescent lamps includes the ability to recover rare earth elements in the form of a powder.

“Europe has established quite a good collection system for end-of-life lamps,” said Langer, who added that OSRAM’s goal has been to capture these materials for re-use. “This makes us as a lighting company more green; we can show that fluorescent lamps do not have to be dangerous or a waste.”

Nader Nejad of Canada’s Electronics Recycling Services (ERS), described how his company has evolved to offer not only WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) recycling services, but also has designed processing equipment it now offers to other recyclers.

Nejad said ERS’s focus has been on developing “effective, low-cost machines” to increase the “footprint” of automated recycling into the developing world. ERS systems have helped turn monitor glass into a concrete additive and WEEE plastics into extruded plastic lumber.

A message Nejad had for audience members concerned the words they use to describe what they do for a living. “E-scrap and e-waste—those words are not interchangeable, and I want to make a distinction,” said Nejad, who said his company’s goal is to “upcycle” material while creating little or no waste.

The Electronics Recycling Asia conference, organized by ICM AG, was held Nov. 13-16 in Guangzhou, China.

 

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