Electronic waste (“e-waste” for short) is a growing concern in Canada and abroad. Canada and the United States as well as other countries and the United Nations are conducting e-waste studies, measuring environmental concerns and enacting legislation. According to Environment Canada, in 2002 over 86,000 tonnes of e-waste was disposed in this country with volumes growing between thee and five per cent annually. E-waste is the fastest growing type of waste in community landfill sites.
Alberta Environment recently completed a round of talks with provincial stakeholders including citizens, recyclers, industry and NGOs. Its recently released final report and the results indicate that support for an e-waste recycling program in the province is at about 96 per cent. More than three quarters of those surveyed indicated they would be willing to pay for recycling in the form of a point of purchase fee. As it stands, it looks like the Tire Recycling Management Association (TRMA) in the province will have its mandate expanded to include multiple types of recyclable waste streams, including electronics. A province-wide program could in place by the end of this year.
Canadian company Maxus Technology Inc. was founded in Calgary, Alberta in 1994 to address the e-waste problem. Maxus opened a recycling facility in Rimbey in 2002 to handle its growing clientele. Almost a year later the company went public on the NASDAQ over-the-counter Bulletin Board Exchange (symbol: MNXS). This allowed the company to expand into the United States, relocating its head office to California while maintaining a Canadian presence in Calgary and sales offices in other cities.
Improved processing systems
In February 2004, Maxus announced an exclusive licensing agreement to install and deploy MeWa e-waste processing technology. The technologies will rollout in the Rimbey recycling facility. The portability of the new system will allow it to be moved to other facilities throughout North America as volumes warrant.
The company is also interested in asset recovery and product refurbishment and resale. The client/owner of the equipment can potentially receive compensation in the form of revenue sharing instead of an invoice. Since there is no heavy machinery employed to process the equipment, environmental concerns are greatly diminished.
Maxus has developed a number of processes that result in the complete recycling of electronic waste. The recycling of e-waste at Maxus is achieved through several steps, including sorting for refurbishment and resale and preparation for processing in the MeWa recycling equipment. Material suitable for processing in the MeWa processing line includes all consumer electronic equipment, only limited by the material size and weight. Preparation of the material is limited to removal of toner cartridges. Batteries, capacitors and other encapsulated hazardous materials do not need to be removed, since the units are not sheared or cut and the complete units are removed as part of the sorting process. Monitors and TVs are prepared for processing by removing the CRTs, which are processed in a separate glass-to-glass recycling system, with the remaining components processed in the QZ system.
Material that is selected and prepared for recycling is loaded directly into the in-feed hopper of the processing line using a forklift with rotating forks. The material is conveyed into the MeWa QZ shredder in which a spinning chain imparts energy to the material, creating a cyclonic “mixing” action. The compound material co-shears, liberating the components from one another.
The output material is conveyed across a magnetic separator, feeding two parallel sorting stations. The sorting stations retrieve the components of value and a small portion of the material is returned back to the input of the processing line for further shredding. The output material — such as steel, plastic, non-ferrous metals and circuit boards — are transported and sold to audited third-party recyclers and processors for commodity recovery.
The original recycling process at the Rimbey facility, which was mostly a manual teardown operation, resulted in the processing of five metric tonnes per day of e-waste. The advantages of the new MeWa process over both the current Maxus system and other mechanised systems in use in North America include:
Processing capacities up to 9000 lbs./hour or 72,000 lbs/day utilizing only marginally increased labour input (as is currently required to process about 10 per cent of this amount);
Significantly lower capital costs, by a factor of at least half, when compared to similar capacity e-waste processing machinery;
Lower maintenance costs (80 per cent lower) than conventional shredding machinery;
Increased margin on processed material due to less co-mingling of the valuable commodities into non-value streams;
A mobile platform that allows relocation of the entire processing line to ensure machinery is operated at high capacity;
Modular construction that allows expansion of the processing line for higher capacity and incorporation of new technology for monitor and TV processing, including glass treatment.
The installation of the new MeWa equipment is scheduled for July with start-up in September, 2004.
Shelley Whatmore is president, Maxus Technology Inc. in Calgary, Alberta Email Shelley at SWhatmore@maxustech.com