At Greentec, the hard drive is an essential part of our collected e-waste stream. Hard drives are a treasure trove of rare materials like gold and earth magnets. However, recovery of these materials is difficult. We often have to dismantle hard drives by hand to recover the circuit boards inside. While we’re able to recycle this component, the rest of the device is shredded into scrap. The scrap is then resold and recycled elsewhere. This dismantling process can be destructive and results in lower volume and purity of recyclable materials. Hence, to be better recyclers, we need a better way to dismantle and recover more of a hard drive’s components.
A Robotics Solution for Greentec
In Part 3 of this series, we are showcasing our efforts with Hamid Karbasi and his students at Conestoga College to find a non-destructive method for dismantling hard drives. Hard drive dismantling involves long hours of consistent work in a harsh environment. As a result, the use of robotics is the natural answer to our problem. The goals of this project include increased efficiency, value recovery, and ensuring the health and safety of our workers. We hope to use robotics to create an automated process that can dismantle any type of hard drive that comes into our recycling facility.
Currently, there is no standard size or configuration for hard drives. Consequently, this makes creating a singular robotic dismantling process difficult as there are many different models of hard drives. For our project to succeed, the dismantling robots need to be adaptable to all forms of hard drives.
The Future of Recycling
Electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams of the modern age. To get ahead of this problem, we need to find innovative ways to dismantle and recycle electronic devices. Not only will this result in more e-waste being diverted from landfills, but we will be able to recover more recyclable material to be re-used in our circular economy. We’re proud to be able to collaborate with Hamid and his talented students at Conestoga College to develop these new solutions and to pave the way for better e-cycling processes.