Research Leads to New Way to Recycle LEDs

Connector Winter 2017

Can we recycle LEDs? That’s the question posed to Dr. Maria Holuszko and her PhD student Amit Kumar at the Urban Mining Innovation Centre (UMIC) at UBC.

One of the main goals for the team at the UMIC is to close the loop in the economic circle through the recovery of valuable materials from waste streams, leading to the ultimate goal of zero waste.

Holuszko and Kumar utilized their expertise in mining engineering to help Contact Environmental, a recycling company, develop a solution to recycle LEDs. Contact Environmental is BC’s major lamp recycler, “responsible for processing up to 90% of bulbs and lighting elements” in the province, said Holuszko.

Making sure that any solution developed did not involve the use of harsh chemical treatments or high temperatures, Kumit utilized equipment already found at Contact Environmental. Kumit said that by using processes that have “been used for the last 20 years in the mining industry” as well as in the recycling of electronics, he tried them out on LEDs to see if they worked. He was able to develop a simple, economical process based on the physical attributes of the LEDs.

The process is able to recover higher amounts of valuable metals than initial estimates. With the success of this process, and significant amounts of metals such as copper, lead, zinc and silver being kept out of landfills, Holuszko and the team at the UMIC plan to build on this success.

The development of smaller, lighter and faster electronics that incorporate composite materials pose many challenges for the recycling industry. However, through the development of adaptable processes that can be modified for specific e-waste streams, Holuszk and Kumar believe that the challenges posed by e-waste can be solved.

Source: The Ubyssey