Recycling Lives’ manual LCD recycling methods approved by Environment Agency

Industry leading publication MRW has followed the progress of Recycling Lives’ innovative flat panel display unit processing line since it was created last year.

In this latest article, MRW discusses the latest statement from the Environment Agency, in which the EA suggests that a manual recycling method, as favoured by Recycling Lives, is best for LCD units…

Companies recycling LCD units will have to dismantle them manually, unless they can prove their system complies with specific regulations.

A regulatory position statement from the Environment Agency (EA), published late last year, states that there will be a presumption that manual dismantling is the only way of achieving compliance with the treatment standards established by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.

But mechanical treatment, such as shredding, may be allowed if the recycler can prove its system is able to remove the LCDs and contain the mercury in “a similar degree of protection” for health and the environment set out in the Best Available Treatment Recovery and Recycling Techniques (BATRRT) guidance.

Companies treating LCD units mechanically have until June 2012 to demonstrate their systems to the EA. After this deadline, those unable to prove they comply with BATRRT may face action.

The position statement says: “There has been some debate over whether the mercury from cold cathode fluorescent lamps can be adequately captured by mechanical means…On the basis of a recent WRAP research report, we have concluded it is likely that only manual treatment of LCDs will result in a realistic chance of capturing the mercury from individual lamps.”

According to the WRAP report, the bulk shredding and mercury washing of LCDs could not guarantee the complete removal of the mercury. The latest study found mercury bonded to electrodes at the end of the lights and was not just present in the powder.

Keith Freegard, director of research group Axion, said: “It seems to be that any liquid washing would not remove the bonded mercury. From the research, it seems that the EA statement is correct and wholly appropriate for the hazardous nature of this recycling.

“Bulk shredding of WEEE items has been accepted as recycling for minimal cost per tonne. I think there needs to be rigorous enforcement of WEEE operators who think they can adapt shredding equipment to treat LCD equipment.”

Recycling Lives is believed to be the first dedicated FPD processing centre in England. Strategic development manager David Allen confirmed that the company had come to the same conclusion in its own research, saying:

“We support the EA’s decision. We use a manual dismantling technique because, working in conjunction with a local university, research suggested it would be difficult to account for all the mercury present in the product, partly as a result of bonded mercury.”