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Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) Recycling System Developed by The Industrial Technology Research Institute of Taiwan

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November 15th 2017

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) Waste Recycling System

Hundreds of Millions LCD Screens are manufactured yearly.  They are used in everything from our mobile phones, televisions, computers, and even our smart refrigerators.  Disposing of these used LCD screens has become a real challenge. Putting the LCD Screens in our landfills causes groundwater and soil pollution, incinerating the screens releases additional air pollution causes gases into our atmosphere.

According to Huan-Yi Hung, Deputy Director of ITRI’s Material and Chemical Research Laboratories “E-waste is a problem we cannot ignore. Every year, about 5,900 metric tons of LCD panels are discarded in Taiwan, and according to a United Nations Environment Program report titled ‘Waste Crime,’ 41.8 million metric tons of e-waste was generated globally in 2014. ITRI’s LCD Waste Recycling System completely resolves the environmental pollution challenges caused by waste LCD panels, and its business benefits for e-waste recycling companies include low cost, increased profits, ease of downstream processing, high production yields, and scalability. It is the best way to process waste LCD panels,”

Raquel Rimbach the Editor of Pollution Equipment News interviewed Mr. Lu Chien-Wei Reseacher in the Material and Chemical Research Laboratories at ITRI – The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) is Taiwan’s largest and leading high-tech applied research institutions. The ITRO is introducing their LCD waste recycling system to the US Market.

How many years did it take to research and develop this recycling system? “Research and development took 5 years.”according to Mr. Lu Chein-Wei.

Since this project was developed with the help of e-scrap processors in Taiwan as well as OEMs. Is the system currently used by any e-scrap processor in Taiwan or elsewhere?
“Not at this moment, Fortune WEEE Solution Inc. (part of Fortune Group, Inc.) is the first e-scrap processor corporation in the North America. To setup a a pilot LCD Recycling Plant using this technology in New Jersey”

What would be the cost of purchasing the 3 metric ton-per-day LCD recycling system for a U.S. e-scrap processor? The Fortune WEEE Solution Inc. invested $2.5 million in the system. The total investment is $5 million.”

What are the daily estimated operation costs associated with the system? “At initial stage, Est. $2000 per ton.”
The data included in the release suggests the system would create just over $32,000 in daily revenue, but more than half of that value is derived from glass content. Recycled glass in the U.S. currently has little to no value, however. In ITRI’s mind, why should a U.S. processor invest in this system? Is it largely an environmental solution or do you believe it can be an economic boon to U.S. processors? “With 21 locations in North America, the Fortune Group has been in the recycling industry for over 30 years. Since liquid crystal is hazardous for heath and environment, and there is no proper way to handle LCD in world recycling industries. For corporate social responsibility, Fortune is willing to be the first to invest to proper recycle LCD waste. As you mentioned, recycled glass in the U.S. currently has little to no value, therefore, government’s support is expected to make LCD recycling solution successful.”

Is there strong evidence to suggest that LCD screens cannot be safely disposed of in a landfill? “I believe this is how processors are currently handling LCD screens in the U.S. According to liquid crystal supplier, Safety Data Sheet of liquid crystal shows that liquid crystal is health hazard, cause skin irritation, and may cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure. Most importantly, it may cause long lasting harmful effects to aquatic life. Moreover, research has repeatedly shown the harmfulness of the liquid crystal, indium and other heavy metals which LCD panels contain, leading an increasing number of countries, such as China, to classify LCD panels as hazardous waste, and forbidden landfill. And a large market such as North America is expected to generate hundreds of thousands of tons of LCD panel waste annually. This is a problem which must not be ignored. So that’s why this recycling technology of waste LCD panels is kind of a big deal.” 

The LCD Waste Recycling System is a zero-waste, eco-friendly, and cost-effective total solution for waste LCD panels treatment. It solves the difficult problem of separating the three main components of LCD panels—liquid crystal, indium, and glass—and recycling each component for future use. It also eliminates the negative environmental impacts of current methods of waste LCD panel disposal: burying, burning and physical disposal. The LCD Waste Recycling System is a circular-economy solution in that it recovers and regenerates LCD panel materials for reuse, rather than a linear-economy approach based on making, using and disposing. It features a six-step process of separation, extraction, purification, scrubbing, concentration, and transformation. The LCD Waste Recycling System is available from ITRI through technology licensing.

A pilot LCD waste recycling plant that ITRI built, in cooperation with leading Taiwanese LCD manufacturers and e-waste recycling companies, can treat three tons of waste LCD panels in one day. Three tons of waste LCD panels produces three kilograms of liquid crystal (USD$15,000), 750 grams of indium (US$158), and about 2,550 kilograms of glass (around USD$17,000). The recovery rate of liquid crystal is nearly 100 percent, and the recovered liquid crystal can be reused in new LCDs or liquid crystal smart windows. The recovery rate of indium is up to 90 percent, and the recovered indium can be reused to produce new indium-tin oxide (ITO) ceramic sputtering targets for electrically conductive transparent thin films for electrodes in flat panel displays, solar cells, antistatic films and other products. Recycled glass can be reused for soundproof or heat-insulating green construction material or heavy-metal adsorption material, which is ITRI’s Green Glass Adsorbent Technology. The Green Glass Adsorbent Technology removes heavy metals from waste water containing copper, chromium, nickel, zinc and lead.

Research has repeatedly shown the harmfulness of the liquid crystal, indium and other heavy metals which LCD panels contain, leading an increasing number of countries to classify LCD panels as hazardous waste. Liquid crystal is the main component of an LCD panel. It is a chemical with a high unit cost, high stability and low biodegradability. Its structure contains a large volume of benzene rings, fluorine, chlorine, and bromine, which, if buried, may seep into subterranean water systems and impact ecosystems. When liquid crystals are ingested, they are likely to be stored and not metabolized, leading to diseased organs. If incinerated at high temperatures, liquid crystal may transform into CFCs and damage the ozone. If incinerated at low temperatures, liquid crystal may become dioxin, PCB, hydrochloric acid, or hydrofluoric acid, which are harmful to the environment. Physical disposal entails breaking down LCD panels and adding them to cement or concrete, which does not remove liquid crystals, indium, tin and molybdenum from the panels, so liquid crystals and heavy metals may still enter and harm the environment through rain or washing. Whether buried, incinerated, or physically disposed, LCD panel disposal is expensive and harmful to the environment. Moreover, the liquid crystals currently used in LCDs are synthetic; manufacture of halogen-containing liquid crystal not only produces a large volume of environmental pollution, but once discarded, LCD panels glass cannot be directly reused, because they contain liquid crystals.

To prevent the pollution caused by waste LCD panel disposal, and control processing costs, ITRI thoroughly analyzed the characteristics and reusability of each material contained in LCD panels, and designed a logical separation procedure according to the associations between each material, first separating liquid crystal, indium, and glass, and then developing purification technology for each material which enables the reuse of these materials.

The LCD Waste Recycling System is available from ITRI through four channels: technology licensing, construction of a waste LCD panel processing center, liquid crystal purification services and reuse of indium and glass consulting services.  Interested companies should contact ITRI at (408) 428-9988 or  email at 0800@itri.org.tw

To view a youtube video that explains the LCD Panel Recycling System click on this link:

About ITRI

The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) is one of the world’s leading technology R&D institutions aiming to innovate a better future for society. Founded in 1973, ITRI has played a vital role in transforming Taiwan’s industries from labor-intensive into innovation-driven. It focuses on the fields of Smart Living, Quality Health, and Sustainable Environment.

Over the years, ITRI has cultivated more than 140 CEOs and incubated over 260 innovative companies, including well-known names such as UMC and TSMC. In addition to its headquarters in Taiwan, ITRI has branch offices in the U.S., Europe, and Japan in an effort to extend its R&D scope and promote opportunities for international cooperation around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.itri.org/eng

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