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Research collaboration with stakeholders leads to new methods of recycling

Recycling Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitors and televisions poses problems for the recovery and recycling of mercury. UCLan researchers worked with a range of stakeholders to try to achieve the best environmental options for minimal cost.

With the decline in use of Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors and televisions the number entering the waste stream system has been gradually decreasing, however it is expected that this decline will be replaced by more LCD items entering the system. Currently the majority of LCD items sold are still in use, and not entering the waste stream system, leading to research in to efficient and environmentally ways of disposing of these items being of low priority for recyclers. However, as it is projected that the numbers will rise it is important to research effective methods of disposing of these items.

A study by UCLan’s Centre for Waste Management revealed the removal of the mercury backlights was difficult and could lead to mercury being released in to the atmosphere. UCLan’s Centre for Waste Management collaborated with electronic waste recycler Recycling Lives Ltd, to undertake an analysis and characterisation of a variety of LCD equipment.

The stakeholders shared their specialist knowledge in collaborative discussions on the project direction. This involved discussions on the acquisition of missing data required to inform the process, the design of equipment, the practicalities of use and the cost and investment implications.

To enable a closed loop recycling system within the University, the study concluded that a mercury recycling specialist was required. As such a new, larger, group was formed, now including Mercury Recycling Ltd, bringing together three organisations with specialist knowledge in order to develop the best practical environmental option to close the recycling loop.

It is forecast that the number of LCD displays entering the waste stream will rise, while the number of CRT displays entering the waste stream will fall. It is also forecast that the rise in LCD monitors entering the waste system will be over a much shorter time period, as they are rapidly replaced by organic LED televisions.

Impact

By collaborating the partners have been able to thoroughly investigate best possible environmental option for the control of mercury in cold cathode fluorescent lamps. This has enabled the development of an evolving environmental management protocol bridging two companies with the common goal of closed loop recycling of waste containing mercury. If necessary this system could be extended to include other stakeholders upstream in the waste industry in the environmental management of LCD waste.

The change in the nature of display waste from CRT to LCD can be integrated in to the recycling activities of Recycling Lives Ltd and Mercury Recycling Ltd.

Research by UCLan in to the implications of the move to adopt mercury free backlighting technology in new LCD has focused the stakeholder group to develop equipment which will achieve the best available treatment without excessive cost. This project demonstrates the benefits of stakeholder collaboration and knowledge transfer in an effort to develop solutions to technical and environmental problems.

Being seen as experts in the field, UCLan have been invited to speak at a number of international events on the subject, and feedback shows that research being undertaken by the centre is in tune with the requirements of industry.