Sometimes big business has big money and big brains to throw at a problem. We looked into one such case with Panasonic’s offshoot company called Matsushita Eco Technology Center (METEC). The goal behind METEC is to reuse parts and materials from end-of-life electronics. Their “product to product” efforts were established in 2001 in response to Japan’s Electronic Appliance Recycling Law, fitting law for the Mecca of electronic paraphernalia. Using innovative and sometimes complex recycling methods METEC gleans the useful glass, copper, plastics, and other metals from TVs, washing machines, air conditioners, and refrigerators.
Some of their separation methods include magnetism to separate steel, buoyancy to separate plastics, vibration and density to sift metals, and precision cutting to separate glass TV cathode tubes. By weight METEC is able to reuse upwards of 50% of the materials used in these household appliances.
They also study the wear and tear on certain motors used in the products to improve the durability and usable life of the appliances in addition to researching design options for making more easily recycled products.
METEC also performs fluorocarbon recovery and send the gas away for neutralization. METEC has enormous recycling plants manned with both human and machine power to accomplish these tasks. They state that “METEC has established four separate recycling lines for each of the electric home appliances and we are developing new recycling techniques for each so that zero-waste levels can be achieved.”
Perhaps the best method is to stem the flow of electronic waste by throwing away less to begin with but the efforts at METEC and the technology driving their concepts may be powerful forces useful in other industries world wide.
Check out some of the charts below to see the stats for reusable materials found in three common appliances.