China’s Green Fence import crackdown made it more difficult – and less profitable – for FCM Recycling to ship e-scrap plastics to Asia. So the Canadian electronics recycling company went into the plastics recycling business.
It hired a chemist and built a lab in Quebec, where the company eventually developed recycled resins that nearly matched the attributes of virgin plastic.
In March, the company began full production at a 25,000-square-foot plant in Cornwall, Ontario, a facility capable of producing more than 15,000 tons per year of ABS, HIPS, PC and PC-ABS flakes and pellets.
“It’s a total first for us,” Andrew Rubin, president of the Lavaltrie, Quebec-based company, said in an interview. And he thinks his operation might be the first to recycle HIPS, ABS and PC-ABS in North America.
He noted MBA Polymers, a U.K.-based plastics reclaimer with recycling facilities in Europe and Asia. MBA Polymers recently announced it had started producing recycled PC-ABS at an operation in Austria.
The Cornwall facility, near the Ontario-New York border, cost more than $1 million to build and was the culmination of years of research and development. The company invested about $3 million in research and development, Rubin said.
“Our goal is to get to a point where we can reintroduce 100 percent of the materials generated from electronic waste back into the electronic materials stream and close the loop,” Mahmood Mehrabzadeh, senior scientist at FCM Polymers, stated in a press release.
The Cornwall plant uses standard plastics recycling equipment, including grinders, air classification systems and metal detection systems, Rubin said. It doesn’t need a washing or drying line because the material comes in relatively clean.
But different resins from shredded electronic components do come in all mixed up, and they must be properly sorted or serious delamination will occur after recycling, Rubin said. Standard near- infrared optical sorters aren’t able to separate the plastics, Rubin said, so FCM developed a proprietary sortation solution for separating them.
Sourcing and selling plastics
The company is one of the largest e-scrap processors in Canada, with five facilities coast-to-coast producing a total of about 10 million pounds of e-scrap plastics per year, Rubin said. The company’s shredders produce the equivalent of a 40-foot ocean freight container’s worth of mixed plastics every couple of days.
Rubin noted that as electronics manufacturers use less metal, their products incorporate a higher percentage of plastics.
While much of the material recycled at the Cornwall plant arrives via intermodal rail and trucks from FCM’s facilities in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, the company also purchases scrap plastics from other e-scrap recycling companies, Rubin said.
FCM produces regrind and repro, and it offers customized compounding services. Product is shipped out via truck to compounders and end users in eastern Canada and the Northeast U.S.
Some FCM customers are sending the recycled plastics straight to injection molds to create 100-percent-recycled-content products, Rubin said. But others, including those making parts for electronics, are blending them with virgin materials, including one customer that used as much as 65 percent recycled content in a plastic product.