Canadian Manufacturing

CREATE SEED initiative to tackle e-waste and promote eco-design

Will optimize reclaiming valuable materials while rethinking how the electronics supply chain functions.

August 11, 2020  by CM Staff

MONTREAL — Polytechnique Montréal has launched a Canada-wide initiative to improve the way electric and electronic equipment waste (WEEE, or e-waste) is reused and recycled, while promoting eco-design.

The Collaborative Research and Training Experience in Sustainable Electronics and Eco-Design (CREATE SEED) initiative brings together 20 Canadian and international universities and industrial partners will deal with waste that in 2016 alone, amounted to 44.7 megatonnes – including 724 kilotonnes from Canada.

E-waste contains substances that are hazardous to health and the environment, but it also contains precious metals that are appeal to the recycling industry. For example, one tonne of mobile phones contains about 100 times more gold than a tonne of gold ore. CREATE SEED intends to optimize the way valuable materials are gathered from e-waste, while at the same time rethink how the electronics supply chain functions.

Professor Clara Santato, (Department of Engineering Physics) and an expert in organic electronics at Polytechnique Montreal, leads the project. Her team and partners have been awarded $1.65 million over the next six years through the federal government’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) CREATE program.

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The project will bring together 50 researchers, students and partners to meet training and research objectives.

The first objective seeks to change thinking about electronics, break down information silos, and eliminate blind spots – particularly in the field of ecotoxicology, while raising awareness about the universal nature of the e-waste problem. A radically different approach to training the next generation of engineers, designers, and analysts aims to transform their vision of e-waste to alleviate the environmental footprint of electronics.

Electronic product design will also get a rethink by using the best of conventional inorganic electronics and emerging organic technologies, combined with the development of manufacturing processes that minimize e-waste’s environmental footprint. An example is smartphones made from biodegradable, upgradable components (organic transistors, organic light-emitting diodes) that also use organic materials (melanins, tannins, lignin, green chemistry materials) to curb e-waste production and its associated pollution.

The initiative’s 20 researchers come from Polytechnique Montreal, Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), McGill University, the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo, the University of British Columbia, and is supported by the National Research Council of Canada, École de technologie supérieure (ETS), HEC Montréal, the Printability and Graphic Communications Institute, the Université de Montréal, the Université de Sherbrooke, New York City University’s Queen’s College, the University of Nigeria – Nsukka and United Nations University.

Partners include the European Chemical Society, Bioastra Technologies, Celestica, MiQro Innovation Collaborative Centre (C2MI), Optel Group, Insertech, Intel, Medtronic, Sacré-Davey Engineering and Pyrocycle.