Processing of LCD screens - Waste and Recycling - Hazardous Waste

The safe extraction of valuable raw materials: robots automatically dismantle monitors containing mercury, while protecting workers’ health at the same time. According to initial projections, around three million LCD screens will be recycled in Germany in 2016. However, their backlighting system often contains mercury, which means they are classified as 'hazardous waste' in accordance with the EWC, and as 'Collection Group 3' in accordance with the Electrical and Electronic Appliance Law. They also contain valuable raw materials, such as metals and plastics, which have to be recovered in such a way, that the environment is not harmed. However, recycling specialists, Erdwich Zerkleinerungssysteme GmbH, have now developed an alternative: The company from Kaufering has developed an automatic processing system that enables mercury and other valuable raw materials to be easily extracted and recycled in an environmentally-friendly way.

Flat-screen monitors comprise up to seven layers. In addition to the valuable metal compound, indium tin oxide (ITO), they also contain mercury in their backlight components. The law requires that such devices are handled in such a way, that the exposure of nature and humans to this toxic substance are prevented. The Federal Environment Agency has laid down recovery quotas for electronic waste, which means that monitors may not be disposed of on refuse sites. Until now, the dismantling process has been too complex to be performed by machines, and has therefore been conducted manually. In particular, the dismantling of LCD screens with flat backlighting has hitherto been a complex and time-consuming process. “It is necessary to remove up to 30 screws just to separate the two halves of the housing. This dismantling procedure takes trained personnel between eight to twenty minutes, depending on the construction of the monitor and the type of background lighting,” explains Harald Erdwich, head of sales and marketing for the recycling experts.

Four-stage treatment process