Taiwan’s EPA Turns Hazardous Waste Into Raw Materials With New LCD Recycling Process

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Environmental Protection Administrations (EPA) around the world utilize a wide range of tactics to encourage more environmentally responsible behavior from the companies they regulate, spanning the full gamut from the carrot to the stick.

CleanTechnica spoke with Taiwan’s Environmental Protection Administration at the Taiwan Circular Economy show, which was co-located with 2018 Energy Taiwan last week in Taipei. EPA expert Shan-lun Lee shared a new recycling program with us that the agency has developed in conjunction with the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) that enables discarded liquid crystal display (LCD) panels to be broken down and recycled into fresh new raw materials.

The new process is a vast improvement on the old process for handling discarded LCD panels, which consisted of literally burying them. I’m sure that’s going to come back to bite us in the hindquarters in the future, but for now, it’s exciting to have a new and improved process to handle the waste and turn it back into granulated glass particles and a refined liquid that is used in between the layers of the liquid crystal displays themselves.

The new nanotech process that is used to break the glass down results in a fine white powdered glass that can be used for a variety of downstream value-add processes. One of the early uses for the glass powder is as a filter media that is already being used to filter out heavy metals like cadmium and copper from wastewater.

Managing water runoff from industrial facilities is a key part of environmental compliance, and much of that work is focused on minimizing the metals in the runoff. The ability to utilize the powdered glass to filter metals out of the water is a nice use case that also helps to improve the health of the environment. After the metals have been filtered out, they can be extracted from the filter media and appropriately managed.

Alternately, the powdered glass material can also be used to make new glass products, albeit at a slightly lower quality than pure glass feedstock.

The new ITRI process captures the liquid from the discarded LCDs and purifies it back to a usable quality. It is not at the same quality as virgin LCD liquid but a demonstration display that showed LCDs produced using virgin fluid and reclaimed fluid side by side showed just how functional the reclaimed fluid is in new products. I couldn’t tell the difference, for what that’s worth, but I make no claims to be an expert in LCD quality.

The new recycling process highlights the opportunity for environmental protection agencies to use their power and authority to work with businesses and non-profits like ITRI to develop new ways of handing waste that do less harm to the planet or better yet, turn waste products into usable raw materials. The carrot is always more fun and effective than the stick.

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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