Robot recyclers that turn waste into gold

Robot recyclers that turn waste into gold

The Irish cleantech firm FDP Recycling is using proven AI technology to transform electronics waste into valuable source material for new products

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21st November, 2021

With the climate crisis and environmental degradation posing an existential threat, we need to transform into a sustainable, resource-efficient and competitive economy, said the chief executive of FPD Recycling®, Paudy O’Brien. “Our technology is developed, proven and ready to scale globally.”

FPD Recycling® is an Irish cleantech company offering intelligent automated recycling solutions that allow us to move away from current take-make-waste model to a sustainable circular economy, where materials are reused and remade.

“Our radical innovation, which involves simultaneously harnessing advanced technologies and a new business model, is changing the perception of disposed TVs and computer monitors from hazardous toxic waste to a source of valuable secondary raw materials for closed-loop supply chains.”

FPD Recycling®, the brainchild of O’Brien, a serial entrepreneur, was established in 2019 by an experienced team of second-time founders and recycling industry veterans.

In just over two years the company has secured contracts of €8.4 million, raised almost €5 million in seed capital with €2.5 million coming from a leading Irish impact investor, secured asset finance facilities from a pillar bank, AIB, and has built a relationship with a leading TV manufacturer.

“Since inception, we have been building a highly competent and dedicated international team with all the necessary skills to grow the company globally,” said O’Brien. “The company is headquartered in the University of Limerick’s (UL) Nexus Innovation Centre in Limerick and many team members are UL alumni.

“Our flagship solution FPD PRO® is a fully automated, robotic recycling system that removes hazardous components from flat panel displays, enabling safe further processing and recovery of over 95 per cent of the materials.”

Automation and robotics, the key technologies in manufacturing, have not yet been widely implemented in the recycling industry to replace outdated methods like manual disassembly, shredding or landfilling.

“Artificial intelligence is finding its way into the recycling industry, but not only in the context of sorting household waste,” said O’Brien. “These emerging technologies will allow a different approach to electrical and electronic waste. Rather than as hazardous waste, we’ll be looking at it as a resource of valuable materials and the process will be seen as “de-manufacturing”, with the option for ‘part harvesting’ for repairs.

“To truly embrace our commitment to enable a more circular economy, we stayed away from a traditional business model whereby we sell the machines and consider the job done. Instead, we retain ownership of the machines throughout their entire life cycle and build long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with recyclers, who pay fees based on the number of devices processed.

“Our customer in the UK is the first recycler there to achieve the sought after WEEELABEX certification of conformity to the EN standards Treatment Standard for Flat Panel Display Equipment. FPD Recycling® has clients in Europe, the UK and Australasia and we expect to deploy our first machine the US in Q1 2022.

FPD PRO® technology is developed, proven on the market and ready for full scale deployment globally. “We plan on raising up to €2 million under the Employment Investment Incentive Scheme (EIIS) to deploy further machines, expand our engineering team and increase building capabilities to fulfil proven demand from recyclers all around the world.

“What makes us different is that our responsible investment opportunity brings environmental and social impact on top of a 100 per cent targeted return over four years. In an Irish context, with a single machine operating, FPD Recycling® is already helping reach our 2030 GHG reduction target.”

The company currently has an unweighted pipeline worth in excess of €82 million and over 106 active global leads, planning to deploy 20 machines by the end of 2022.

Innovation never stops. FPD Recycling® is only at the beginning of its journey, finding new ways to add value for stakeholders. “This includes expanding the range of devices our technologies can be applied to, identification and separation of hazardous plastics, battery pre-sorting, data capture and carbon credits certification,” said O’Brien.

“We are engaged with UL on RD&I projects across a number of waste electronic projects. We are working with Enterprise Ireland and Circuléire (the national platform for circular manufacturing) on a state funded research project which ultimately will lead to reducing wastefulness of our natural resources and we will commercialise this research in the next two years.”

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