Thursday, February 28, 2008

Panasonic solve all worlds problems - time to plastic everything!

Panasonic, the company that brings us TV's, microwaves and other electronic goodness has bought itself a seat on the board at Greenpeace with its latest invention. In a press announcement, Panasonic states they have figured out a way to eliminate a majority of plastic and electronic waste using Titanium Oxide as a catalyst.

Apparently the whole process is very efficient, requiring very little energy to work, thereby reducing CO2 emissions as well. Big thumbs up from me if this works as well as it says it does. As massive electrical goods consumers, we need a way to dispose of all the old iPods and motherboards we turf out every year. Its amazing to see the figures on waste even in your own area. In the Wellington Region for 2005, we created 382,887 tonnes of rubbish that went into landfills - imagine how much we could reclaim if we used a process like the one described below, if it works like it says it does. We could reclaim a whole lot of metal and reusable stuff from 382,000 tonnes of rubbish I'll bet.

Although its a great step forward, its not a Panacea I'm sure - but with the boffins at Panasonic on the case (and elsewhere) I'm pretty confident science will help give us more discoveries like this to help greenify the planet once more. Apart from my back lawn which I just astroturfed.

See the full press release below

Panasonic Uses Catalytic Reaction to Decompose Plastics Into Harmless Gas for E-Waste Recycling

-Eliminating need for incinerating or dumping plastic waste in landfill-

Osaka, Japan - Panasonic, by which Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. is known, today announced that the company has developed together with Kusatsu Electric Co., Ltd. a recycling technology that enables the recovery of metals from plastic-coated wires and plastics used in electric and electronic equipment without causing hazardous side-effects.

Using the catalytic properties of titanium oxide (TiO2), the innovative technology facilitates recovery of inorganic substances such as metals by transforming organic substances such as plastics into harmless gases.

Panasonic is successfully using the new technology at the Matsushita Eco Technology Center (METEC) to recover copper from degaussing coils covered with vinyl chloride tape found in CRT TVs. In addition, mixed plastic waste destined for incineration or landfill is treated and changed into non-toxic gases at METEC. The method not only contributes to "zero waste," but also helps reduce CO2 emissions as little external energy source is required in the gasification process.

Today, about 80 percent, by weight, of all collected home appliances is recycled into metallic and plastic materials. The remaining 20 percent is currently regarded as non-recyclable waste e.g. rubber, mixed glass and mixed plastic waste which is difficult to sort further as it is comprised of many different types of resins or contains metals. Although some mixed plastic waste can be used as fuel in general, the waste containing certain chemicals such as vinyl chloride needs to be treated in a high-temperature incinerator to avoid dioxin emissions.

The new recycling method combines Kusatsu Electric's non-incineration plastic disposal technology using TiO2 and Panasonic's high grade materials recovery technology that is used by Panasonic to recycle old home appliances. The method uses unique mixing and carrier systems that allow plastics to contact the catalyst efficiently for gasification, leaving the valuable metals. As the catalytic reaction of TiO2 generates heat to promote gasification, an additional heating source is not required in the process. The method uses cooling water to maintain temperature (500°C) for optimal catalytic reaction. The subsequent heated water from the process can be used for other purposes. Hydrogen chloride produced during the gasification process of vinyl chloride is neutralized with lime.

Panasonic aims to completely eliminate mixed plastic waste and spread the use of this environment-friendly technology to recycling-related facilities and further to production facilities in and out of the Panasonic group.

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