Overview of Korea's Metropolitan Electronics Recycling Center
The client was the Korea Electronics Recycling Cooperative – the body acting as Korea's WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) association. They had direct responsibility for managing the Metropolitan Electronics Recycling Center (MERC), located in Yongin, Korea. This plant first became operational in 2003.
The material to be processed was general electronic and refrigerator scrap. These components were direct outputs from the plant's existing shredders. This plant recycled 21,000 tons per year, and until January 2015, used a gravitation separator to sort this throughput of material.
Though reasonably effective in achieving component separation, MERC's mechanical separation process had limitations in terms of the degree and quality of its final output of recovered material. The deployment of TOMRA's modern waste-sorting technologies was planned to increase sorting efficiency, raising the quality and the value of the plant's output.
Specified objectives for introducing sensor-based sorting
The client wished to replace the MERC plant's existing mechanical treatment equipment with a more efficient sensor-based sorting system. The existing equipment separated waste using dense media separation (DMS) technology, which relies upon utilizing the different specific gravities of the input material to achieve component separation. The introduction of a sensor-based sorting system, using TOMRA's AUTOSORT and COMBISENSE machines, was designed to realize two primary objectives:
- To improve the separation of plastics – for the first time making it possible to make a detailed recovery of plastics, for example, according to their different colors and polymer types;
- To upgrade the quality of the copper and aluminum fractions recovered.
In each case, it was anticipated the outcome of these improvements would have a markedly positive impact upon the value of the recovered materials. Given that there is a continuously growing demand for premium-quality e-scrap, these upgrades would also improve the economic viability of MERC's e-waste process. These aspirations fully reflected the Korean government's Eco-Assurance initiatives, encouraging the methodical management of e-waste and the adoption of a responsible 'life-cycle approach' to the purchase and eventual disposal of consumer products.