Electronic components to re-use polycarbonate
The market drivers for material recycling are the UN Sustainability Development Targets (UN SDGs), in particular target Number 11 for sustainable cities and settlements and Number 12 for sustainable consumption and production. But industry-specific standards in the electronics industry, such as eco-labels like the Blue Angel and the EPEAT electronics eco-label, CSR initiatives by companies and, last but not least, growing consumer interest in more sustainable products are also driving the development of recycling solutions.
As an example, the closed material cycle starts with the production of new, transparent polycarbonate at Covestro and its supply to a manufacturer of 5-gallon water bottles. This customer delivers the bottles to a water producer, which then provides the filled containers to consumers. They can be reused for up to approximately 50 times. At the end-of-life, they are being returned to the bottle manufacturer via the water producer through the same value chain. Then the bottles are shredded, cleaned and sorted. After that, the quality of the post-consumer recyclate is checked and polycarbonate granulates produced. This recycled granulate is processed by Covestro – to form a polycarbonate blend which is used by OEMs to produce new laptops, copiers, printers, mobile chargers for smartphones and other electronic devices.
The concept offers significant advantages over previous recycling approaches for thermoplastics. The collection and material sorting of post-consumer products has often been a challenge in the past. Fluctuations in quality have also often stood in the way of effective and economical recycling. However, all partners can benefit from the new concept and the business model behind it.
Not only is the electrical and electronics industry very interested in recycled raw materials; the automotive value chain, for example battery manufacturers, is also becoming increasingly committed to using more sustainable materials.
In another project, Covestro is working with partners on the recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles together with polycarbonate. Both plastics are processed into a PC-PET blend from which new, high-quality products can be manufactured.
“Polycarbonate is used in many high-quality applications and is also very durable,” says Kayla Wu, marketing manager for electronics applications of polycarbonates in the Asia-Pacific region. “The material is far too valuable to be disposed of after just one use.”
Covestro – www.covestro.com