Resources Recycling Initiatives Transform Product Manufacturing

Panasonic turns end-of-life home appliances into reusable resources

Panasonic is transforming its product manufacturing process to look ahead to the end-of-life stage by implementing “recycling-oriented manufacturing.” As recycling technology steadily advances, the ultimate goal is to be able to convert iron, copper and plastics from waste bound for landfills to resources that have top value in new-product manufacturing. 

Support for the elimination of plastic is growing as the world moves toward a “circular economy,” in which no waste is generated. Electric home appliances are made of metal, glass and plastic. There is growing pressure to recover and reuse these materials rather than simply discard them. Panasonic has developed technologies, production methods and equipment for the efficient recovery and reuse of valuable resources from end-of-life home appliances, transforming them into manufacturing materials.

Recycling-oriented manufacturing has two aims. One is the minimization of input resources and the maximization of recycled resources. The second is the reduction—to zero—of the final disposal volume of waste generated through manufacturing activities. 

Making products from recycled resources

Advanced technologies are required for the recovery of resources from end-of-life home appliances for recycling purposes. While minimizing input resources by reducing product weight and size at the manufacturing stage, Panasonic is proceeding with initiatives toward recovering a larger volume of recyclable resources through the introduction of new technologies at its recycling facilities.

A key dimension of resources recycling is the work performed at the Panasonic Eco Technology Center Co., Ltd. (PETEC), a recycling facility established in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan in 2000. At PETEC, Panasonic is successfully recovering valuable resources such as plastic, iron and copper at a high degree of purity from end-of-life televisions, air conditioners, refrigerators and washing machines. 

Photo: End-of-life home appliances delivered to PETEC. End-of-life home appliances delivered by forklift are carried into the PETEC warehouse.
Photo: On the PETEC Plant line, staff members use a power screwdriver to dismantle parts that can be reused.
Photo: High-purity recycled resources are scooped up by staff members wearing gloves.

The process of sorting and recycling plastic components, for example, represents a formidable challenge. There are many varieties of resins, even though they may all look alike, which must be separated from each other and recovered before the recycling process can begin. PETEC has developed a high-precision resin sorting system which enables sorting and recovery by resin type at a high degree of purity. This is made possible by identifying the type of plastic through irradiation with a near-infrared beam. From mixed pieces of resin, three types of plastic—polypropylene, polystyrene, and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)—are being sorted and recovered at over 99 percent purity.

The high-precision resin selection system using near-infrared identification technology

Photo: Inside the High-Precision Plastic Sorting System using near-infrared identification technology

Resins extracted with high purity are conveyed to begin their new role as recycled materials

Photo: Sorted resin
Photo: Recycled materials are shipped from PETEC. Forklifts are carrying recycled materials loaded into bags.

The high-purity recycled resources that have been extracted are reborn as “resources recycling-oriented products.” The recycled resin is in internal parts for air conditioners, refrigerators and inductive heating (IH) cooking heaters. The vacuum insulation that uses glass wool recycled from television cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) is used in new refrigerators. By expanding these kinds of resources-recycling technologies from domestic use in Japan to the world at large, Panasonic aims to contribute to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and to the realization of a sustainable society.

17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Image: Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 2: Zero Hunger, Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being, Goal 4: Quality Education, Goal 5: Gender Equality, Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities, Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, Goal 13: Climate Action, Goal 14: Life below Water, Goal 15: Life on Land, Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions, Goal 17: Partnerships for The Goals, these development goals will continue to be in agreement worldwide as we proceed toward 2030.
Image: A Better Life, A Better World

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