Limerick leading the way in electronics recycling

Dr Lisa O’Donoghue, Founder and CEO of Votechnik

A LIMERICK company is leading the way in the recycling of old TVs and computer monitors with their patented technology.

Votechnik, a deep tech company that started at the University of Limerick (UL), uses a system called ALR4000 to de-pollute LCD TVs and monitors by removing toxic elements – such as mercury and liquid crystals – to make them safe to recycle.

Dr Lisa O’Donoghue is the brains behind the operation and told the Limerick Post that the discovery that these harmful materials could be removed from TV and computer screens was a game-changer.

“This was a eureka moment as TVs come in so many different makes, models, shapes, and sizes, including complex internal structures. The ability to have a process that works on all of these allowed the possible of high-speed processing.

“This process was patented and Votechnik was spun out from the University to further develop and commercial the technologies,” she said.

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Lisa’s background before Votechnik came along was in materials science, with a speciality in metallurgy – the process of making products for construction and manufacturing.

For Lisa, this then evolved to an interest in recycling and how raw materials can have more than one use.

“I became interested in the recycling from the metallurgy and alchemy perspective and intrigued with the reverse engineering aspect of how to get our raw materials back.

“As a scientist, I personally find this an exciting time to have an opportunity to contribute to our changing world as circular economy becomes a reality,” the UL graduate said.

It was this interest, along with her research, that led Lisa to make the discovery that would eventually lead to Votechnik’s founding. Today, the company’s ALR4000 technology can de-pollute as many as 60 LCD screens per hour.

Lisa said that being able to break down these waste electronics on a high-speed scale is crucial in ensuring that as many waste electronics as possible are kept out of landfill.

She explains that 200 million TVs are sold each year across the world, as well as 120 million computer monitors.

“Where are [these waste products] going to go or end up if they are not recycled properly? If they are dumped in landfill, the risk is eventually, hundreds of years in the future, the lining of those landfills will disintegrate or collapse, posing a risk of releasing the hazardous materials and pollutants to soil and water.

“The sheer volume of waste being generated per year has to be dealt with to ensure there is no current or future contamination of our planet.

“Therefore, every household is key and all the devices and waste electronics should make their way back to the proper channels and collection schemes such as WEEE Ireland. We all play our own role at household level regarding this,” she said.

The company is currently in the process of exporting their ALR4000 technology to Sweden and the United States, as well as developing more technology to aid in the recycling of electric vehicles and waste streams from the mining industry.