Wed, 23 Oct 2019

This Indian-origin academician developed world's first e-waste factory that converts trash into valuables

Posted on Monday, September 3, 2018

Veena Sahajwalla Indian-origin professor in Australia develops world’s first e-waste factory that converts trash into valuable materials , reports Shyna Kalra

Scrapped e-waste which often lands next to river beds in India polluting both the land and water bodies, can be used as raw material to create daily use products, thanks to the new technology created by Indian-origin academician Veena Sahajwalla.

 The e-waste micro-factories claim to produce clean glass, reuse 80% of waste plastic substance and recycle around 600 tonnes of waste per annum. “If we have input feedstock of 1-2 tonnes per day and if the micro-factory operates for 300 days then we would have 300-600 tonnes of waste being recycled per annum,” says Sahajwalla.

 Waste consisting of glass can be reformed, but plastic has about 80% recovery and as input feedstock becomes more complex recovery rates reduce. The micro-factories produce clean glasses because we operate machinery at temperatures that do not produce toxins,” she adds.

Sahajwalla, an alumnus of IIT-Kanpur, is currently a professor of Materials Science in the Faculty of Science at University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia. She is also the director of the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SM@RT).

 “I started working on the idea to develop an e-waste micro-factory more than ten years ago. In April 2018, we launched the world’s first e-waste micro-factory, which is a series of small machines and devices that uses patented technology to reform waste items into high-value materials for use again in manufacturing processes,” says Sahajwalla.

 “Pre-programmed robots are used to select components such as circuit boards from computers or laptops. These boards can be broken down in small furnaces with controlled temperatures to extract the valuable resources, such as copper alloys. The glass and plastic can also be combined in our micro-recycler which is capable of operating at high temperatures to produce silicon carbide nanoparticles.

 Our lower temperature micro-factory produces filament for 3D printing,” she adds.

 The micro-factories can be a solution to the ever-increasing waste management problem in India. The Australia-based academician believes that for the technology to work in India, one has to incorporate the well-networked informal sector including the scrap dealers, who she refers to as ‘waste warriors’. “The ideal way to introduce the technology in India would be by working with scrap dealers. By training local operators to not just be collectors, but be genuine recyclers and even manufacturers with the micro-factory outputs so it builds on the system that already exists. This can also increase income for the scrap dealers as they can become manufacturers,” says Sahajwalla.

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