Although optical drives in consumer notebooks are becoming less common nowadays and we are storing more and more of our digital information on hard drives instead of optical discs, CD/DVD players are still a mainstay of desktop computers and business laptops and new systems often come bundled with discs containing all sorts of never-to-be-used software. With the help of its Laboratories Division, Fujitsu has developed a new recycling system to make new front panels for notebook computers from all the discarded CDs and DVDs collected, sorted and recycled by its five recycling centers across Japan.
One of the reasons we've become so dependent on plastic is also its biggest problem. Its durability means that when the product it was originally created for outlives its usefulness, the waste product that results ends up being incinerated, dumped in landfill or making its way into the oceans.
Electrolux drew attention to the issue of plastic waste at sea with its "Vac from the sea" initiative, using plastic waste gathered from the sea to make several limited edition vacuum cleaners and, more recently, the Sea Chair project aims to harvest plastic waste from the ocean to create furniture. Recycled plastic has also recently been used for earthquake and hurricane resistant housing, a solar sports jacket, a rather uncomfortable-looking bike, and a digital camera.
Recycling plastic is not quite as simple as just throwing lots of plastic bits into a big pot, melting it down and molding it into something new. Fujitsu says that in order to achieve the material properties necessary for use in its notebooks, plastics of the same type need to be identified, collected and used. Even then, subtle differences, impurities or visual defects could still prevent them making the grade.
The company has announced that the polycarbonate from CDs and DVDs has now been identified as a suitable source, which also benefits from being free from bothersome contaminants like flame retardants.
During the shredding and separation process, the source material is subjected to quality control checks based on a chemical substances risk management database developed by Fujitsu Laboratories to ensure compliance with legal requirements governing the chemical composition of components used in the manufacture of notebooks and computers.
Further improvements to the quality of the recycled plastics has also been made possible thanks to collaborations with plastic cleaning and processing company PANAC Industries and resin compound manufacturer Idemitsu Kosan Co Ltd.
The recovered plastic then undergoes compounding before being molded into new front panels for the 12.1-inch LIFEBOOK P772/E business notebook from Fujitsu's Summer 2012 catalog. The company expects the new process to cut down the use of new plastics by more than 10 tons per year and cut the CO2 emissions resulting from its manufacturing processes by 15 percent.