Environment : Reduction in Resources Used and Use of Recycled Resources

eco ideas

Reduction in Resources Used

To minimize the use of resources for production, we continuously look to reduce the weight of our products.

Through the Product Environmental Assessment, Panasonic has been promoting resource saving from the product planning and design stage, such as using less resources, making our products lighter and smaller, and using less components. We also implement various measures from the standpoint of resource recycling throughout the product life cycle, such as component reuse, longer durability, use of recycled resources, easier battery removal, and labels necessary for collection/recycling.

"Extended Pile Method", a Unique Ground Reinforcement Method

Ground reinforcement is required to build a house depending on the condition of building lots. In the conventional methods, however, there were various problems caused by using large construction equipment, which includes the difficulty in operating in narrow sites and having large environmental burden due to the use of a lot of construction materials. Panasonic Homes Co., Ltd. has uniquely developed "Extended pile method", a ground reinforcement method through which the volume of steel pipes are extended after pressing them into the ground. In this method, cylindrical steel pipes are pressed into the ground and extended by injecting water under pressure. This makes it possible to reduce the amount of materials used for the construction in comparison with that of the conventional methods in which steel pipes are pressed into the ground just as they are, and also provide high friction between the pipes and the ground. In the conventional construction methods using small caliber steel pipes, 6,075kg of steel is needed to reinforce the ground per lot. In this extended pile method; on the other hand, the amount of needed steel is 710kg, which is approx. one eighth of steel used for the conventional methods.

"Quick Up", the special equipment for the renewal of lighting equipment

Quick Up enables to renew a ballast of lighting equipment while using its existing body. The structure of Quick Up, in which feeding parts are installed on its reflective plate, does not need cable connection work between these parts, making it possible to renew lighting equipment for a short work period. Quick Up can be applied for the renewal of embedded- and ceiling-type incandescent lighting equipment to LED lighting. As the body of existing lighting equipment is still used, the amount of waste and the cost of disposal can be reduced.

"Quick Up", the special equipment for the renewal of lighting equipment

Example of Recyclable Product Design

For more efficient recycling, Panasonic works on designing products in line with the industry’s guidelines to achieve easier disassembly and sorting.
For example, use of fixing methods that are difficult to undo, such as welding and swaging, is minimized and the number of screws is reduced so that the products can be easily separated. In addition, materials used for resin components are indicated to facilitate sorting.

Material indication of resin component

Products Using Recycled Resources

Under the concept of "product-to-product", we are enhancing our initiatives of utilizing resources recovered from used products. As for resin, we promote the reuse of resin recovered from our used home appliances (refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, and TVs) for our products. We also started recycling scrap iron recovered from used home appliances in our products in 2013.

Products manufactured, delivered to customers and used are later collected to recycle resources, which are in turn used to manufacture products.

Enhanced Use of Recycled Resin in Home Appliances

To efficiently utilize resin recovered from collected waste home appliances in addition to metals such as iron, copper, and aluminum, our recycling factory, Panasonic Eco Technology Center Co., Ltd. (PETEC), and Kato Plastic Recycling Factory of the Appliances Company work together for resin recycling.

After high-purity plastic is recovered from waste home appliances at PETEC, the material is washed in the Kato Plastic Recycling Factory, and its strength and product life are restored for use in products manufactured by the Appliances Company.

Using technologies such as our original near-infrared identification technology, PETEC is capable of sorting shredder residue of waste home appliances into three major types of resins with different purposes and properties—polypropylene (PP), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), and polystyrene (PS)—at a material purity of over 99%.

The recycled single resins sorted and recovered at PETEC are then transferred to the adjacent Kato Plastic Recycling Factory to be further purified and processed to recover their chemical properties. Kato Plastic Recycling Factory is a manufacturing and development site that demonstrates promotion of use of recycled resin at our Appliances Company, a home appliance manufacturer and seller. The factory plays an important role in enhancing recycled resin utilization by developing recycling technologies, such as a more efficient method for improving the purity of recycled resins. Recycled resin is generally weaker in strength and has a shorter life than new resin. This is why its chemical properties have to be recovered to the level of new resin to make them usable as materials and components in new products. The properties required by our customers vary depending on the resin. We have established techniques that make full use of the properties optimal to each resin such as PP, ABS, and PS, which include adding antioxidants or mixing recycled and new resins.

In fiscal 2018, development of high-performance materials was focused, including the recycling of flame retardant PS from the back covers of TV sets and flame retardant PP from nonwoven fabric. A recycling method was also developed for PPGF (PP containing short glass fibers) from drum-type washing machines that had not been recycled in the past into talc-filled PP with high rigidity.

Recycled resin quality-assured by Kato Plastic Recycling Factory are being used in our manufacturing factories, and depending on the resin type, reborn as internal parts of air conditioners, IH cooking heaters and refrigerators.

Near-infrared sorting machine that can sort three types of resin simultaneously

Building a Recycling Scheme for Scrap Iron

Jointly with Tokyo Steel Co., Ltd., we started a recycling scheme for scrap iron in July 2013. In this scheme, we recover the scrap iron from used home appliances and Tokyo Steel makes it into steel sheets. We then purchase the sheets back as a material for our products. Supplying scrap iron for recycling and repurchasing the recycled iron is the first scheme of its kind in the Japanese electrical manufacturing industry.

After high-purity plastic is recovered from waste home appliances at PETEC, the material is washed in the Kato Plastic Recycling Factory, and its strength and product life are restored for use in products manufactured by the Appliances Company.

Specifically, scrap iron from home appliances collected and treated at PETEC is supplied to Tokyo Steel's Okayama Plant, where the scrap iron is processed into electric steel plates.*1 Panasonic procures the recycled steel plates and utilizes them in products. Discussions with Tokyo Steel commenced in 2010, and we have worked together since then to improve the quality of recycled iron to a level sufficient for production use, as well as developing the technology to improve the applicability of the recycled iron. From this we identified the optimum application of the electric steel plates, and refined its specific features (e.g. shape, strength, and weldability) to meet application-specific requirements. Use of thin electric steel plates in our products was first made possible in 2011. Through this close collaboration, we materialized this recycling scheme in 2013, a scheme where a home appliance recycling company that we own supplies scrap iron to be used to make electric steel plates.

The amount of scrap iron we initially supplied to Tokyo Steel was about 50 tons per month. In fiscal 2018, it reached over 2,600 tons, and the recycled steel is being used in our products, including washing machines and ceiling materials for housing.

We recover the scrap iron from used home appliances and Tokyo Steel makes it into steel sheets. We then purchase the sheets back as a material for our products.

The increase in electric steel plate usage leads to an increase in the usage of scrap iron, which is one of the most important resources in Japan. In addition, producing steel plates from scrap iron emits much less CO2 compared with producing steel plates from scratch. This scheme also stabilizes the procurement price, because the price of scrap iron supplied from PETEC and the price of electric steel plates procured from Tokyo Steel are determined by the scrap iron fluctuation rate agreed between the two companies. We will further expand this recycling scheme for more efficient resource utilization, CO2 emissions reduction, and stabilization of procurement prices.

*1 Steel produced from scrap iron melted and refined in an electric arc furnace.