Panasonic Eco Technology Center

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Recycling Processes

TVs, air conditioners, refrigerators, and washing machines. PETEC carefully removes valuable natural resources from these end-of-life home appliances, gives them a new role as recycled materials, and sends them out to where they are needed.

Materials that are extracted at high purity using PETEC's cutting-edge technologies, including glass, metals (such as steel, copper and aluminum) and plastics, are transformed for partial use as materials for the bottom frames of washing machines, and the base plates of refrigerators, etc. They are also used as materials for new products, such as park benches and stationery items, and delivered once again to consumers.

Recycling TVs

Key Recycling Points

  • • Plasma TVs and LCD TVs, which are composed of different materials, are dismantled by hand and finely sorted.
  • • The mercury (a hazardous substance) contained in LCD TVs is carefully recovered.
Material Composition(percentage by weight, unit: %)

Source: Reference materials prepared by councils and investigative committees of the Ministry of the Environment

Source: Reference materials prepared by councils and investigative committees of the Ministry of the Environment

Key Point

Dismantling Lines Designed to Increase Work Efficiency
In order to increase the work efficiency of dismantling lines for flat-panel TVs, the lines are designed to enable dismantling from both sides, with workers in a facing series style. Also, by fixing the position of each person in a walk-free arrangement, material recovery is achieved in which unnecessary movement is minimized. Since it is assumed that the number of TVs to be dismantled will increase in the future, ways to improve both manual dismantling techniques and mechanical tasks are continuously sought.

Line Flow

  • Dismantling line of flat TVs (Click on image for next slide)

  • 1) Loading: This loading device sets the TV at the proper height for the workbench. The TV is received by the manual dismantling staff.

  • 2) Dismantling and sorting: Using a facing series style, the TV covers and screws are removed.

  • 3) Dismantling and sorting: Metallic materials are recovered from printed circuit boards and flexible printed circuit boards.

  • 4) LCD module removal: The fluorescent tube containing mercury, which is a hazardous substance, is dismantled and safely recovered inside a special booth, making sure not to break the tube.

  • 5) Material shipping: Materials that have been removed with high purity are shipped according to type.

Nationwide average recycling rate

In addition to Panasonic, the efforts of appliance manufacturers and appliance recycling plants all over the nation combine to greatly exceed the recycling rate that is determined by law.

Plasma TVs
Legal recycling rate: 50% minimum
(Up to March 31, 2015)

* Results of a FY2013 survey by the Association for Electric Home Appliances.

Recycling Air Conditioners

Key Recycling Points

  • • Air conditioners consist of many metal parts, i.e., steel, copper, aluminum, etc. It is important to sort them accurately and extract them efficiently at high purity.
  • • PETEC also recovers refrigerant chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Old, large-size outdoor units are taken from the standard process line to a different site for careful recovery of the CFCs from each unit.
Material Composition(percentage by weight, unit: %)

Source: Data for 1982 Products, Association for Electric Home Appliances

Key Point

Crushing of Heat Exchangers and Sorting of Materials
Heat exchangers are removed from both indoor and outdoor units and transported to the Tojo Factory of Panasonic Production Engineering Co., Ltd. There, they are crushed into mixed fragments of aluminum, copper, and other materials by a special crusher. Following this, the materials go through various processes, such as vibration specific gravity sorting and wind power sorting, to achieve higher-purity materials. This further increases their value as natural materials.

Line Flow

  • Dismantling line of Air Conditioners (Click on image for next slide)

  • 1) Recovery of refrigerant CFCs: Refrigerant CFCs are recovered, then sealed in containers and shipped to a specialized processing company for detoxification.

  • 2) Dismantling of outdoor units: Heat exchangers and compressors, which contain large amounts of metals, are removed from outdoor units.

  • 3) Dismantling of indoor units: Exterior covers, heat exchangers, fans and other parts are removed from indoor units.

  • 4) Material shipping: Materials that have been recovered by type are sorted into higher purity at the factories to which they are shipped.

Nationwide average recycling rate

The national average recycling rate for air conditioners also greatly exceeds the legally established recycling rate (70% minimum).

Air Conditioners
Legal recycling rate: 70% minimum
(Up to March 31, 2015)

* Results of a FY2013 survey by the Association for Electric Home Appliances.

Recycling Refrigerators

Key Recycling Points

  • • Large amounts of steel, copper and aluminum are used in refrigerator bodies. The amounts of those metals account for about 60% of the refrigerator weight. It is important to sort them accurately and extract them efficiently at high purity.
  • • The next most used material is plastic. The urethane foam used as insulation contains chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) because chlorofluorocarbon gas is used in the foaming process. At PETEC, CFCs are recovered thoroughly from urethane foam and processed at a special processing factory for detoxification.
  • • Previously, after the removal of CFCs, the remaining urethane was disposed of as waste. At PETEC, we make solid fuel (Refuge paper and plastic fuel: RPF) from the remaining urethane foam to promote recycling.
Material Composition(percentage by weight, unit: %)

Source: Data for 1982 Products, Association for Electric Home Appliances

Key Point

Sorting of Materials by Using Magnetic Force, Force of Air, Eddy Current, Etc.
First, steel is removed from mixed fragments of metals and plastics by using magnetic force, and lightweight urethane foam is extracted by using the suction force of air. A mixture of copper and aluminum (mixed metals) is separated from other materials by a nonferrous metal sorter. From the remaining fragments, plastics are removed by material type. At PETEC, metals and other materials are thoroughly sorted and recovered.
Extracted materials are shipped to materials manufacturers by type for recycling.

Line Flow

  • Dismantling line of Refrigerators (Click on image for next slide)

  • 1) Dismantling and handling of plastic parts: Trays and partitions are removed from the inside of refrigerators, then they are fed to special crushers by type.

  • 2) Recovery of refrigerant CFCs: Refrigerant CFCs sealed in compressors are recovered by a special machine.

  • 3) Crushing of refrigerator bodies: Refrigerator bodies are crushed into mixed fragments of metals and plastics.

  • 4) Sorting of materials: Steel is removed by using magnetic force, and urethane foam is extracted by using the suction force of air. At the same time, CFCs contained in urethane foam are also recovered.

  • 5) Sorting of mixed metals and plastics: After mixed metals and plastics are separated by a nonferrous sorter, plastics are sorted by type.

  • 6) Shipping of materials: Materials extracted at high purity are shipped by type.

Nationwide average recycling rate

The national average recycling rate for air conditioners also greatly exceeds the legally established recycling rate (60% minimum).

Refrigerators
Legal recycling rate: 60% minimum
(Refrigerators + Freezers)

(Up to March 31, 2015)

* Results of a FY2013 survey by the Association for Electric Home Appliances.

Recycling Washing Machines

Key Recycling Points

  • • Plastics are the second most used materials in washing machines, next to steel. Once different kinds of plastics are mixed, they cannot be used as a raw material. Polypropylene (PP) resin is the most common type of plastic used in washing machines. It must be recovered at high purity.
  • • Tilted drum-type washing machines are growing increasingly popular. Since some of them are equipped with a heat-pump dryer function that uses chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) as a refrigerant, we recover refrigerant CFCs just like in the case of air conditioners and refrigerators.
Material Composition(percentage by weight, unit: %)

Source: Data for 1982 Products, Association for Electric Home Appliances

Source: Results of a Panasonic survey

Key Point

Removal of Polypropylene (PP) by Using a Sink-float Density Separator
The fragments of mixed plastics removed from crushed washing machine bodies are crushed into finer pieces, and dirt is removed from them. Then, the finely crushed plastics are placed in a water tub. When they are stirred and allowed to flow in the water, only lightweight PP floats to the surface. This sorting technique enables the extraction of polypropylene at a high purity of 99.5%.
The extracted PP is used as a raw material in the production of bottom frames and drums of washing machines.

Line Flow

  • Dismantling line of Washing Machines (Click on image for next slide)

  • 1) Weighing and Preliminary Check: In order to calculate the amounts of materials extracted and recycled per day, each washing machine is weighed. Vertical-type and tilt-type drums are separated into different lines.

  • 2) Manual dismantling: Control panels, power cords, etc., are recovered by the manual dismantling process.

  • 3) Removal of Salt Water: We remove high-concentration salt water from the balancers located on the upper part of vertical washing machines. This prevents the salt water from corroding the steel to be recycled.

  • 4) Main unit crushing and material sorting: After the main unit is crushed, magnets and other devices are used to sort the materials into metals and plastics. Also, a sink-and-float sorting machine is used to recover polypropylene (PP) from mixed plastics.

  • 5) Sorting completed: Materials that have been carefully sorted into type await being shipped as recycled natural resources.

  • 6) Shipping of materials: The extracted high-purity materials are shipped by type.

Nationwide average recycling rate

The national average recycling rate for air conditioners also greatly exceeds the legally established recycling rate (65% minimum).

Washing machines
Legal recycling rate: 65% minimum
(Washing machines + Clothes dryers)

(Up to March 31, 2015)

* Results of a FY2013 survey by the Association for Electric Home Appliances.

At the end of each day, cleaning is done with a sense of gratitude.
The next day, the "treasure hunt" will begin once again with a fresh approach.

"Photo Gallery (Downloading)," visit this page to see more recycling scenes.

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Related Contents

  • PETEC's Activities
  • Our Work and Technology
  • Learning About Home Appliance Recycling