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NRAs 2015 WEEE Innovation: Electrical Waste Recycling Group

Electrical Waste Recycling Group’s (EWRG) process, fully permitted by the UK regulator, is unique in its mechanical treatment of mercury-containing flat panel displays (FPDs).

The company identified the need for the process as display technology shifted from cathode ray tubes (CRTs) to mercury-containing liquid crystal displays (LCDs).

EWRG saw the different hazards within the two display technologies: in CRTs it is lead, bound within the CRT glass, while in LCDs it is the highly volatile and mobile mercury within the backlight technology. These are presented within one common WEEE category (displays), but must be treated differently by recyclers.

Electrical Waste Recycling Group

A ‘robust’ CRT display can be quickly disassembled by hand with easily recoverable components, but FPDs have complex, compact technology and fragile mercury-bearing components. If FPDs were processed by hand, it would mean a huge personnel resource and cost. EWRG’s aim was to develop a safe process, with high-quality recovered out-feeds for use in the UK supply chain, and to produce an efficient and cost-effective system.

“This solves a big problem with a sustainable solution. It is a highly regulated area where they have provided a service that other recyclers utilise. The throughput of material demonstrates the need.”

Judges’ comment                  

The company believes it is the first approved in the UK to mechanically process LCDs containing mercury backlights to ‘Best Available Treatment Recycling & Recovery Techniques’ (BATRRT) in a high-volume process, without the need for any pre-treatment. BATRRT is a standard determined by the UK regulator.

Whole FPDs are mechanically treated, with the mercury content safely recovered and the out-feed fractions recovered as clean recyclate. The process works by a means of size reduction, and employs a series of novel processing technologies. A closed system of local exhaust ventilation is used to capture particulates and extract the mercury. The system emits no air to the external atmosphere and recirculates all the exhaust system air within a further treatment system. A panel is processed in six seconds compared with 15 minutes if done manually.

The process has undergone several major scientific studies in conjunction with the Environment Agency to ensure it is safe to operators, the public and the wider environment.      

 

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