Revolutionising the e-waste sector through smart recycling

FPD Recycling is availing of robotic and AI-powered automation solutions that will help the international e-waste recycling industry

Paudy O’Brien, chief executive of FPD Recycling: ‘We devised a process that could deal with carbon accounting and look at the full data capture.’ Picture: Arthur Ellis

Electronic waste, known as e-waste or WEEE, is the fastest-growing waste stream. According to the UN, in 2019 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste – of which 6.7 million tonnes were TVs, laptops and monitors, collectively referred to as flat panel displays (FPDs) – was generated globally, of which only 17.4 per cent is documented to be formally collected and recycled.

FPD Recycling, an Irish cleantech company established in 2019, has developed global proprietary urban mining technology that tackles the disposal of FPDs, and allows us to move away from the current ‘take-make-waste’ model to a sustainable circular economy, where materials are reused and remanufactured.

Name of company: FPD Recycling

Why they’re in the news: FPD Recycling is one of the first companies in the world to achieve the Gold Standard for a carbon credit project linked to e-waste recycling.

FPD Recycling has done this by developing robotic and AI-powered automation solutions for the international e-waste recycling sector that are enabling the best possible material recovery rates while making it safer and better for both people and the environment.

The Limerick-based company has had a busy and productive year, with its customer base now spanning three continents. Currently north of a million in revenue this year, it also opened its own 15,000sq ft assembly facility, which gives it more control over the technology and services it provides.

It is one of the first companies in the world to achieve the Gold Standard for a carbon credit project linked to e-waste recycling. This enables the recycling partners to benefit from trading carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market, but with one major difference.

“The carbon projects we are developing are backed up by empirical data captured by our technologies which increases the value of the carbon credits produced,” said Paudy O’Brien, chief executive of FPD Recycling. “We’re selling it as a carbon inset so that the electronics industry can reduce carbon within their own supply chain.”

It was originally partnered with Robotics and Drives as an assembly partner before making the decision to take it in-house. From there, the team have been able to focus on entrenching AI vision and machine learning vision into its products.

It has recently partnered with an AI company that works primarily with the European Space Agency, which has provided it with support in both machine vision and its new battery sorting project.

“There’s a lot of positives in relation to building the in-house team, which is how you control the IP. It gives you better control of the outcome and gives you better control of the customer experience,” he explained.

Its flagship product is FPD PRO, the first fully automated robotic recycling system for processing FPDs. It’s currently working on the Circular PRO, which is a further step towards creating a true circular economy.

The Circular PRO is a end-to-end solution that includes all of the features of the FPD PRO, with the addition of identification of polymers and BFR elements without shredding; further disassembly; Carbon Credit Certification; parts harvesting for reuse & recycling, and data valorisation.

The company received €2 million in grant funding from the European Innovation Council (EIC), through the EIC Accelerator program over the last 12 months to fund the development of the Circular PRO.

The EIC is Europe's flagship innovation programme to identify, develop and scale up breakthrough technologies and game-changing innovations, and is highly competitive with a less than 5 per cent success rate among applications from all over Europe.

“In developing the Circular PRO we looked at the policy frameworks for Europe in the future, such as plastic separation, brominated flame retardant, digitalisation which data capture is a huge part of it, the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and carbon accounting.

“We devised a process that could deal with carbon accounting and look at the full data capture – so elements like weight, size, TV model, identifying the materials such as brominated flame retardant – and deal with them without the traditional method of shredding and creating microplastics.”

Last month, the company launched a €21 million Series A funding round. O’Brien advised that €8.3 million has been committed from the EIC Fund in match funding and the company is seeking €12.7 million from institutional and private investors. This is the first dilutive funding round to be undertaken by the company.

The EIC Fund is the venture investment arm of the EIC. With a budget of €10 billion, it supports start-ups through patient capital to minimise the risk for private investors.

“EIIS is what the business is built on; it was a huge benefit to the business in that regard," he said. “It gave us the ability to be inventive and we didn’t need to pay back debt every month. It gave us that creative freedom that’s required in a technology start-up.

“The support of EIIS investors and Enterprise Ireland here at home has been integral to the success of the company to date and provided us with the skills and resources necessary to win the support of the EU which along with the current round of EIIS investment will fuel the next chapter in the company, as it continues to scale globally.”