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Home Appliance Recycling
There are many types of glass, metals and plastics found in end-of life products. At PETEC, we recover highly pure materials, which will be used for new products, by making use of high technologies for recycling.
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Recycled glass is used for new TV's CRTs, and other various types of recycled metals such as iron, copper and aluminum are used for parts in new products. Various types of recycled plastics are reborn as the bottom frames of washing machines, base plates of refrigerators, park tables and chairs, housing materials (insulation), small stationary products and so on. The recycled materials recovered at PETEC are all used for new products and are returned once again to consumers.
Recycling Television SetsRecycling Air ConditionersRecycling RefrigeratorsRecycling Washing Machines

TV: Important Recycling Points (CRT TVs)

If you lift up a TV set, you will notice that only the screen side is heavy. It is because the glass for CRT is thick. About 60% of the weight of a TV set is from CRT, which is made of two different kinds of glass; the transparent panel glass on the surface and the funnel glass which contains lead in the back. The important point for recycling TVs is to take out these two kinds of glass leaving as little waste as possible. PETEC achieves a 98% recycling rate for CRTs.

Furthermore, besides CRTs, the metals and plastics used as components in TVs are delivered to specialist plants and then recycled.

Material composition of CRT TVs (as percent of total weight, units: %)
Source: Association for Electric Home Appliance material for 1982 products

Flat-panel TVs

When determining important points for recycling, the composition of valuable materials is examined. Glass accounts for around 60% of CRT TVs, but only around 30% of plasma TVs and around 5% of LCD TVs, which is less than half the figure for CRT TVs. This is because as TVs have become flatter, the amount of the valuable glass has declined. When recycling flat-panel TVs, it is important to properly separate and recover steel and plastics in addition to glass.

Just like other products, flat-panel TVs are processed on a specialized line so that they can be recycled based on the concept of "from products to products," recovering recyclable materials and using them in newly produced items.

Plasma TVs Material Composition
plasma TVs

Graph shows ratio composition by weight
(source: material from bodies such as councils and investigative committees of the Ministry of Environment)

LCD TVs Material Composition

Graph shows ratio composition by weight
(source: material from bodies such as councils and investigative committees of the Ministry of Environment)

TV: Line Flow (CRT TVs)

Disassembling and Organizing Parts

Each TV is placed on the line and weighed, and then the power cord is removed. Disassembling of TVs is carried out completely by hand. One by one the operators remove parts using a screwdriver and take out components such as built-in speakers and the control board, then collect materials after sorting.

Dismantling TV

There are many electronic components in a TV set, and they are made of various materials such as metals, solders that contain lead, and plastics and so on. We sort them all and then pass them on to specialist plants.

Removing CRTs

We have to remove CRTs to prepare for separating the transparent panel glass on the surface from the funnel glass, which contains lead, in back. First, the support band at the attached part of the two kinds of glass is removed, and then dirt such as tape, adhesive stuck to the glass and black soot is carefully cleaned off manually.

Separating CRTs

A laser pointer is used to target the attached part between the panel glass and the funnel glass, and a glass cutter is used the scratch the line. After that, a nichrome wire wraps around the line and heats it up by passing a current through it. As a result, the difference in the thickness of the glass causes a distortion, and the glass breaks clearly in two. The purity of the recovered glass is 99.9% for both kinds. They can be used as the materials for CRTs in new TVs.
In addition, we have developed a separating technique using laser processing that automatically identifies CRT glass sizes, and with size-specific energy radiation, the processing can be done 3 times faster than with nichrome wire. At PETEC, we use both of these technologies.

Processing and Shipping Panel Glass

First, we have to clean the panel glass by brushing and vacuuming impurities such as phosphor and evaporated aluminum film on the inner side of the panel glass. Then, the panel is broken up into 5 centimeter square-cut pieces (cullets) in the crushing room that has anti-vibration and soundproof equipment. Then, the cullets are shipped to CRT plants outside Japan.

Processing and Shipping Funnel Glass

Funnel glass is also sent into a crushing room that has anti-vibration and soundproof equipment, and then broken into 5 centimeters square-cut pieces (cullets) by the machine, which is different from the one used for crushing the panel glass. After that, the attached dirt on the cullets is removed, and they are shipped to CRT plants outside Japan.

TVs are recycled in this way and once again used as resources.

Recycling television setsRecycling Air ConditionersRecycling RefrigeratorsRecycling Washing Machines

Air conditioners: Important Recycling Points

Air Conditioners contain various metals including iron, copper and aluminum. For example, the pipes that connect the indoor and outdoor unit are made of copper, and the sturdy compressor is made of iron. The heat exchanger, which conveys coldness or heat of the refrigerant to the air, is built of aluminum plate.

To recover highly pure materials efficiently, how precisely we can sort metals into iron, copper and aluminum is the important point. The recovered iron is used as a part of the compressor set in air conditioner. Copper and aluminum are also leveraged as materials.

Material composition of air conditioners (as percent of total weight, units: %)
Source: Association for Electric Home Appliance material for 1982 products

Air conditioners: Line Flow

Removing HCFCs

First, we have to recover the refrigerant HCFCs. Then the HCFCs will be sealed to be sent to a specialist company. However, some older air conditioners cannot be processed on the regular line due to their plus-size. These will be moved to another location and carefully processed one by one. Also, the recovered HCFCs are sealed to prevent leakage and shipped to the specialist plant to be made non-toxic safely.

Dismantling Outdoor Unit

Outdoor air conditioning units are also dismantled by hand, and heat exchangers and compressors are removed. Since heat exchangers contain lots of copper and aluminum (also compressors contain lots of iron), we consider both pieces of equipment treasures of recyclable materials.

Dismantling Indoor Unit

The operators remove power cords, exterior covers, fan and inner parts manually. One of the most important pieces of equipment is the heat exchanger which contains a large amount of copper and aluminum. Operators put heat exchangers on the conveyer making sure not to mix them with other parts, and the heat exchangers will be sent to the specialist crushing machine.

Crushing and Sorting of Heat Exchanger

The heat exchangers removed from indoor and outdoor units are crushed into mixed metal fragments in the sealed crushing room. First, only iron is removed by magnet. Then, the mixed metals are separated into copper and iron by applying vibration due to the difference in specific gravity.

Crushing and Sorting of Compressor

Although compressors were crushed with a crushing machine originally, PETEC developed a special chopping blade to facilitate the sorting of materials. Through this, an iron compressor is separated into two parts, and the inner copper wires and aluminum are removed in high purity.

Shipping the Removed Materials

The materials from the crushing/separating room come out by category. The iron extracted from compressors will be used as the casting material for new air conditioners. Also, aluminum and copper will be shipped to non-ferrous metal manufacturers and recycled.

In this way, air conditioners are recycled and once more leveraged as resources.

Recycling television setsRecycling Air ConditionersRecycling RefrigeratorsRecycling Washing Machines

Refrigerator: Important Recycling Points

Large amounts of iron are used for refrigerator bodies. Also, besides iron, lots of metals such as copper and aluminum are used to construct other parts of refrigerators, which amount to 60% of the total weight of the product. These metals; iron, copper and aluminum are all reused as materials.

The next most used material is plastic. Other than the refrigerator's interior and trays, urethane foam used as insulation is fibrous plastic. Since CFC is used when forming urethane foam as insulation, we recover CFC in urethane foam properly so that the sealed CFC will be sent to the specialist plant to be made non-toxic.

Material composition of refrigerators (as percent of total weight, units: %)
Source: Association for Electric Home Appliance material for 1982 products

Refrigerator: Line Flow

Dismantling and Organizing Plastic Parts

The operators remove power cords, and then take out the magnet on the door, trays and partitions inside by hand. This is when plastics, polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS), are separately put in the gondolas that move overhead. The gondolas will reach the specialist crushing machine for plastics. The plastics are crushed into granules and become raw materials.

Dismantling Compressor

When magnets on the door are removed in front of refrigerators, refrigerant fluorocarbons encapsulated in compressors are recovered in the back. The sealed fluorocarbons are shipped to a specialist company.

Crushing Refrigerator

The refrigerator is put into the crusher. And when it is out, once again it passes through a machine that squashes and is transforms it into a lump of mixed metals and plastics. Also, the urethane foam, used as insulation, on iron plates of the cabinets is removed completely.

Sorting Iron and Urethane Foam

First, iron is recovered from mixed fragments of metals and plastics by magnetic force. Then, the light urethane foam is removed by wind force, crushed and compressed into a cylinder shape. This urethane foam is recycled as the material for insulation in home appliances and building materials. At the same time, CFC in urethane foam is recovered.

Sorting Aluminum and Copper

The fragments which do not contain iron and urethane foam are sorted into mixed metals and other fragments in the eddy current separator. The copper-aluminum mixed fragments are recovered due to the difference in specific gravity. These mixed fragments are shipped to a non-ferrous metal manufacturer as mixed metals and recycled. Then the plastic in the remaining fragments are recovered, and the others are disposed of as residue.

Shipping the Recovered Materials

Various kinds of materials such as metals and plastics come out from the crushing room by category. Casting parts and copper wires can be recovered from compressors. These are all sent to each manufacturer and recycled.

Refrigerators are recycled in this way and once again used as resources.

Recycling television setsRecycling Air ConditionersRecycling RefrigeratorsRecycling Washing Machines

Washing Machine: Important Recycling Points

Although the main parts of a washing machine made up from iron, various other materials including copper, aluminum and plastics are used. The next most used material on a washing machine is plastic, which is difficult to sort. Once different kinds of plastics are mixed, they cannot be used as materials.

Therefore, how we sort them is the important point for recycling washing machines. Washing machines contain lots of polypropylene resins (PP), which float in water. At PETEC, we recover PP with 99.5% purity. The recovered PP is again leveraged as the material for the bottom plate of washing machines and washing tubs.

Clothes dryers became subject to recycling from April 1, 2009. Since they are similar to washing machines in structure, they are appropriately treated in our existing washing machine line.
In Japan. tilted drum type is on the increase.
Since some of them have "heat pump dry unit" which uses fluorocarbons as a refrigerant, the fluorocarbons must be recovered.

Material composition of vertical washing machines (as percent of total weight; units: %)
Source: Association for Electric Home Appliance material for 1982 products

Material composition of tilted drum type washing machines (as percent of total weight, unit: %)
Source: own research

Washing machine: Line Flow

Before Dismantling

In order to calculate the amount of materials extracted from washing machines per day, each washing machine is weighed. Then, the power cord is removed and the washing machine is placed on the conveyer. In this process, operators check inside it to see if there is garbage or other electrical products.

Removing HCFCs

We recover the refrigerant HCFCs from appropriate tilted drum type washing machines. The HCFCs will be sealed and sent to a specialist company to detoxify.

Removing Salt Water

There is a piece of equipment called a balancer on the upper part of an automatic washing machine tub, and it contains highly concentrated salt water. The purpose of the salt water is to balance the washing tub so that it does not spin at a tilt. If the balancer with salt water is crushed in large amount, the recovered iron will rust. In order to prevent this, the salt water is removed in advance.

Crushing and Sorting Materials

The washing machine from which the salt water has been removed is carried to the crushing room and crushed into metal and plastic fragments. After that, light mixed plastics are blown off and sorted from heavy metals such as iron, aluminum and copper. These are processed in a room that is completely equipped with sound and vibration proof equipment.

Sorting Plastics

The fragments of mixed plastics are finely crushed and the dirt on them is removed. When they are placed in a water tub and flows with stirring, only the light polypropylene (PP) floats (sink-float density separator).

Shipping the Recovered Materials

Finally, the materials recovered from washing machines come out on the conveyer by category. The main ones are iron, mixed metals (aluminum and copper, etc.) and polypropylene (PP). Each of them is recovered at this point and shipped to manufacturers of materials.

Washing machines are recycled in this way and once again used as resources.

*This site introduces Panasonic's home appliance recycling plant in Japan, which is engaged in material recycling under the Japan's Home Appliance Recycling Law.