On June 13, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, announced investments of more than $12 million in research infrastructure for 17 of Canada’s colleges and polytechnics, including Conestoga. The funding is provided through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) College-Industry Innovation Fund (CIIF), which helps colleges both enhance their partnerships with the private sector and create new ones, generating local and national socioeconomic benefits while providing opportunities for a new generation of innovators.
Conestoga received an award of $1 million to support the development of a state-of-the-art Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) pilot plant. Based in the college’s applied research facility in Cambridge’s new Gaslight District, this unique, fully functioning pilot plant will use advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide new solutions for dismantling electronics, removing plastics, recovering precious or rare earth metals for re-use, and making recycling economically feasible.
The pilot plant is the latest extension of the work by Dr. Hamid Karbasi, Conestoga’s NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Advanced Recycling Technologies for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).
“We greatly appreciate this important investment in applied research at Conestoga,” said President John Tibbits. “New technologies and digital innovations offer many opportunities for productivity improvement, efficiencies and cost savings, as well as improved safety. But as manufacturers and consumers enjoy the advantages that digital innovations bring, we must also address growing concerns regarding e-waste.”
Discarded electrical and electronic equipment is the world’s fastest growing solid waste stream, accounting for 49 million tons of electronic waste (discarded computers, cell phones, printers, televisions, microwaves, smoke alarms, and other electronic equipment and parts) in 2016. According to a 2018 report from the Earth Institute at Columbia University, that total is expected to increase to more than 60 million tons by 2021.
Most e-waste ends up in landfills: estimates indicate that only about 20 per cent is properly recycled.
“The WEEE pilot plant will provide us essential tools to explore urban mining, that is, recovering rare earth elements that are vital for building new electronic products and equipment as well as for renewable energy technologies such as solar panels, electric cars and windmills,” Karbasi explained.
In addition to developing new solutions for recycling discarded or obsolete devices, Karbasi and the advanced recycling research team will also work with producers to explore ways to build new devices so that they can readily be de-manufactured at the end of their lifecycle.
Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning is a leader in applied research, working with industry and community partners to deliver practical solutions to real-world challenges in a broad range of areas, from Smart Manufacturing and Digital Innovation to Workplace Health and Safety, Seniors Care and Healthy Communities.
The institution is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 25 research colleges.
To find out more about applied research at Conestoga, visit www.conestogac.on.ca/research