5 minutes with… Paudy O’Brien, CEO, FPD Recycling
5 minutes with… Paudy O’Brien, CEO, FPD Recycling
October 16, 2019
FPD Recycling‘s CEO, Paudy O’Brien, takes some time out of his busy schedule to discuss the FPD PRO – a totally automated solution for the recycling of challenging and complex flat-panel displays. He will also be at E-Waste World Conference & Expo to answer any questions from delegates that we may have missed
What is the genesis of FPD Recycling?
FPD Recycling was founded out of a market need for a commercial solution to a growing global problem. We have assembled a vastly experienced team and are delighted to have waste industry leaders on board.
In what ways does your solution, FPD PRO, differ to others available in the market?
Although there are a number of other solutions available on the market, the FPD PRO differs to each of them, as it is a fully automated solution that handles TVs, monitors, laptops and both Cold-cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) and LED. There is also no current competitor that processes at the same speed and efficiency as the FPD PRO. There are semi-automated processing solutions that remove the screen, but they do not remove the CCFLs and backlights. There is also a full-shred solution that shreds. We are also aware of academic research into a fully automated solution which only processes CFFL TVs only. As with all competition, each has its strengths and weaknesses.
You specialize in flat-panel displays. Can I assume that this type of e-waste requires a special type of processing and handling and that there is not an all-encompassing solution to recycle all types of e-waste?
As our name suggests, FPD Recycling, our current focus is that of flat-panel display recycling. Our focus on this e-waste stream was down to the increasing volumes entering the waste stream, which are extremely labor-intensive to disassemble manually (typically six to eight units per hour per operative), the hazards in the screens including mercury and lead, legislation requiring liquid panel displays to be removed, and shredding whole screens not possible due to the hazards in the screens (for example mercury-bearing CFL lamps in the older TVs and monitors as well as lead in newer screens). As a company driven by using automation, AI and robotic technology, we have other projects in development – for example hard and solid-state drive dismantling to recover rare earth metals and magnets – so who knows in the not-too-distant future we may also have HDD Recycling to compliment FPD!
As a company driven by using automation, AI and robotic technology, we have other projects in development – for example hard and solid-state drive dismantling to recover rare earth metals and magnets – so who knows in the not-too-distant future we may also have HDD Recycling to compliment FPD!
What are the challenges and considerations in this type of recycling? What are your customers telling you they need from the solutions they deploy?
Customers are looking for safe, affordable and profitable technology that is flexible and will futureproof their business as FPDs change. The technology needs to be compatible with their compliance requirements. And with changing legislation, bigger emphasis on re-use, and better segregation of fractions deliver better economic and environmental returns.
What do you or your customers do with the materials once they’re recovered?
There is an option for recyclers when they have processed the FPD at FPD Recycling to procure the fraction at market value or the recycler can utilize its existing supply chain. The higher value in the fraction can only be achieved by ‘clean fractions’ and our approach was to keep it as big as possible for as long as possible. We depollute the FPDs, making them safe from mercury, lead and liquid crystal, which allows for parts harvesting, manual disassembly and shredding. The recycler can decide what path they want to take.
Screen technologies are advancing at a rapid rate. From a recycler’s point of view, how do they keep up with the developments of tomorrow?
This is a great question. Our approach is to partner with the recycler in our business model, not just sell technology and this is evident in our business model which is a technology lease based on usage. This ensures that we are aligned with the futureproofing of the technology and the recycler mitigates the risk of obsoleteness and the life-cycle cost of the technology. On a technical front, we have built the FPD PRO with proven technology and cutting-edge design which enables variation and flexibility in the screen we process. Currently, we process 11-70in of CCFL TVs, LED TVs, LED monitors, CCFL monitors, LED laptops and CCFL laptops.
Our approach is to partner with the recycler in our business model, not just sell technology and this is evident in our business model which is a technology lease based on usage. This ensures that we are aligned with the futureproofing of the technology and the recycler mitigates the risk of obsoleteness and the life-cycle cost of the technology
Anything exciting in the pipeline?
The FPD PRO is our flagship product and we have a strong focus on commercial-focused research. We are currently working on a number of interesting projects on the downstream fraction from the FPD PRO such as exploring what to do with the LCD panels and the depolluted FPD chassis to deliver better value to the recyclers. This is derived by OEM requests and the obvious shift in legislation. We have two other projects at proof-of-principle stage in the e-waste space and are looking at patents currently so we can have a discussion about these in the coming months.
Why do you think electronic waste does not receive the same kind of media scrutiny as, say, plastic pollution?
Media focus tends always to be around packaging plastics bottles, plastic carrier bags, straws, etc. This is why the public tends to lobby for changes in the use of carrier bags in a supermarket or plastic straws in a restaurant. Due to the higher purchase prices of electronic equipment, at their end of life they tend to be stored in a drawer, cupboard, store or garage and forgotten about (mobile phones, headphones, computers, tablets, games consoles, televisions, etc), along with poor education that these products can be recycled and where the public can return them to for recycling. Large household appliances tend to have higher education and recycling due to collections when a new product is delivered to the householder (e.g. fridge, washing machine, tumble dryer, and so on). For the occasional e-waste awareness days, such as the one organized by the WEEE Forum on 14 October 2019, the media does get behind for promotion but nowhere near the same coverage as packaging plastics, which the general public see more often in oceans, rivers, developing countries, etc.
What would you say is the single biggest challenge facing the e-waste sector today? And how would you suggest we overcome that challenge? Where do solutions lie? What needs to change?
It’s difficult to identify the single biggest challenge as there currently seems to be many including integrated lithium-ion batteries with the potential for causing fires, the availability of quality long-term labor to work in a recycling warehouse environment, cost of labor and additional taxes/workplace pensions/minimum hourly rates and sustainable end markets for secondary raw materials. Automation for recycling products addresses the majority of these challenges. New electrical items are not assembled manually, and it should be the same for end-of-life electronics using the latest technology to ‘de-manufacture’ products.
New electrical items are not assembled manually, and it should be the same for end-of-life electronics using the latest technology to ‘de-manufacture’ products.
Is e-waste legislation tough enough – or perhaps not quick enough to adapt rules to faster-changing electronics development cycles?
In Europe, it has been over 10 years now since the WEEE regulations came into force. It is fair to say the governments and environmental agencies have taken their time to get used to the regulations and enforce the legislation. Certainly, in the past one or two years we have seen new regulations and legislation coming into force – for example, separation of brominated flame-retardant plastics containing POPs, mercury and lead in flat-panel screens and batteries. Legislation and regulations are now catching up with new electronics entering the waste stream. But more can be done for sure.
Which countries are success stories for you when it comes to dealing with e-waste and why?
Europe has very stringent regulations and legislation for e-waste, which of course makes our products for recycling flat-panel displays a requirement to meet the regulations. However, the USA and Canada – with increasing labor rates and availability of operatives to work in a recycling warehouse environment – also makes our equipment very viable and we have had an extremely positive response from launching at the E-Scrap Conference in Florida in September. So, both legislation and the capital markets are drivers for the FPD PRO’s capabilities.
Europe has very stringent regulations and legislation for e-waste, which of course makes our products for recycling flat-panel displays a requirement to meet the regulations
Where do you predict the future of e-waste is heading?
One word – automation. Why? Shredding is increasingly not viable – integrated batteries, end markets for commodities needing to be clean and not mixed, comingled contaminated outputs which require major investment in further separation equipment, and so on. Robots and automation of manufacturing cover all products – for automotive, food and electronic equipment manufacturers. It should be no different for end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment using reverse manufacturing, for example robots for parts harvesting of components, dismantling safely due to batteries and mercury for example and maximizing the commercial return from commodities.
What are your impressions of our speaker line-up and companies confirmed to attend?
It’s the first year of E-Waste World Conference & Expo and we are very impressed with the line-up of speakers, attendees and exhibitors at the conference. We’re hoping for a slot to talk about our fantastic FPD PRO flat-panel recycling equipment but there were no available spaces – this shows that the conference has received good support with quality speakers.
E-Waste World Conference & Expo takes place from Thursday 14 November to Friday 15 November at the Kap Europa, Frankfurt Messe, Germany. To register for this highly focused, solutions-driven event, please click here. For sponsorship and exhibition opportunities, please email firstname.lastname@example.org