Panasonic cuts TV recycling time

by Hiroko Nakata

KATO, Hyogo Pref. — Panasonic Corp. and its fully owned unit Panasonic Eco Technology Center Co. said Thursday they have developed new technology that makes it possible to recycle old-style TV sets three times faster and leaves less waste than previous methods.

The technology uses laser beams to cut the front glass panel away from the cathode ray tube, a key component in the recycling process. Other parts are broken into tiny bits and recycled into plastics, steel and other materials.

The new technology is aimed at dealing with the surge in recycling older TVs ahead of 2011 and the country’s shift to terrestrial digital broadcasting, when a great many people are expected to replace their bulky old sets in favor of flat-screen models that take advantage of the new service.

“We needed to deal with the high demand of discarded CRT TVs toward 2011 and to increase the process capacity,” Hiromi Shima, general manager of development at Panasonic Eco Technology Center, told a news conference.

With the laser technology, it takes a mere 50 seconds to separate each picture tube. The old method uses electrically heated wire to burn through the joint between the front screen and the funnel-shaped rear portion.

The laser cutter also automatically measures the size of the TV screen from 14 to 36 inches and whether it is a normal or wide screen.

The process of separating the glass panel is important because different types of glass are used in each TV’s front and rear portions. The glass used for the front is pure, while the one in the funnel-shaped portion contains lead, which is subject to environmental regulations, Shima said.

Glass accounts for around 60 percent of conventional TV sets. Other major materials are plastic and steel.

Shima said the center expects to recycle 650,000 television sets in 2011, compared with around 300,000 units in 2008.

The center in Kato, Hyogo Prefecture, recycles about 750,000 home appliances a year from six prefectures in the Kinki region.