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Fujitsu Is First To Recycle CDs Into PCs

Fujitsu began using recycled plastic from CDs and DVDs to make the body of one of its notebook computers released in the company’s summer 2012 lineup. Compared to conventional notebook PC manufacturing processes, this system is expected to reduce the amount of newly produced plastic used by 10 tons per year while cutting CO2 emissions by approximately 15 percent, the company said.

The recycling system is a first of its kind for the PC industry, and going forward, Fujitsu plans to expand its use to other notebook PCs and products as a way to reduce its environmental footprint and resource consumption.

At the company's five recycling centers across Japan, Fujitsu collects, disassembles, sorts, and recycles personal computers and other products. However, reusing the recovered plastic in new computer units has posed a number of challenges. Firstly, when different types of plastic are involved, a uniform mixture is impossible to achieve even by melting the plastic with heat. As a result, it is necessary to collect only a single type of plastic to ensure the desired material properties. Even so, in a given plastic, there may be differences in ingredients, visual defects, or impurities that make it difficult to achieve the same molding characteristics, colors, strength and other properties as conventional plastics.

Furthermore, compliance with the RoHS directive and REACH regulations regarding the safety of chemicals in ICT products has made it challenging to control the quality of recycled plastics, and until now it has been impossible to reuse recovered plastic in computer bodies.

With this in mind, Fujitsu says turned its attention to CDs and DVDs, which are often included with PCs and are available in predictable quantities. These optical discs are made from polycarbonate, a type of plastic suitable for use in the bodies of notebook PCs. Moreover, they do not include any contaminants, such as flame retardants, so they were deemed to be a suitable material for recycling. Through collaboration with plastic washing and processing company PANAC Industries, Inc. and Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd., a manufacturer of resin compounds, Fujitsu says it has been able to improve the quality and manage the safety of its recycled plastics.

As part of its quality-control process, Fujitsu says it designs products to be easily disassembled and labels the types of plastic used in its products to enable easy identification. In addition, the company employs Fujitsu Laboratories' risk management database of the chemical substances included in plastic materials to verify whether or not the collected CD and DVD fragments contain harmful substances.

Earlier this year, Sprint published an updated environmental scorecard, encouraging mobile phone manufacturers to increase the use of modular designs that will ultimately improve both the reparability and recyclability of devices. 

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant.


Bart King is the principal of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. He is also an associate editor for Sustainable Brands. Follow him @bart_kingGoogle+

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