Investing in Research & Development: Part 2
Our investment in R&D is about more than just refining the process of recycling and getting closer to a fully sustainable economy. It’s also about safety.
Accessing the full value of the e-waste that comes through our facility requires our team to break electronics down into components. Most of the time that can be done through shredding, but some electronics house hazardous materials and must be manually broken down.
Toxic Flat Panel Displays
Flat Panel Displays (FPDs) are one of those problematic e-waste products. The unit itself is full of valuable commodities, but the bulbs underneath the screen contain mercury, which is extremely toxic. According to the World Health Organization:
“Exposure to mercury – even small amounts – may cause serious health problems…and may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes. Mercury is considered by WHO as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern.”
Clearly this isn’t something to be taken lightly.
We currently dismantle Flat Panel Displays by hand, which means we have more control to ensure the bulbs stay intact, but it’s slow and doesn’t allow for any error. Working with Professor Hamid Karbasi and his students at Conestoga, we’ve been exploring the use of robotics and how they might enable us to automate this entire process making it more efficient and safer.
Robots: Tool or Workforce Replacement?
There’s a lot of anxiety, and excitement, about the future of the North American workforce because of the accelerating development of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Here in Canada, research from The Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Toronto’s Ryerson University suggests “that nearly 42 percent of the Canadian labour force is at a high risk of being affected by automation in the next decade or two.”
For our business today, people are required. But robots are a promising tool that can help keep our staff safe while maximizing what we can extract from e-waste like Flat Panel Displays.
As always, if you have any questions about what we’re working on or what we do, drop us a line in the comments below or get in touch.