The infrastructure funded by the CFI includes the state-of-the-art equipment, laboratories, databases, computer hardware and software, communications linkages and buildings necessary to conduct research. It helps institutions attract, retain and train the top researchers from around the globe and fosters collaboration among the academic, private, public and non-profit sectors on a range of projects and across many disciplines. The solid platforms of research infrastructure being established in Canadian institutions are serving to support business innovation and private-sector research and development. At Conestoga, Applied Research plays an important role to support the needs of local partners, while providing students with opportunities to build critical real- world skills and connect with employers. Conestoga's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Lab is a state-of-the-art project that generates commercial, social and environmental impacts related to the proper disposal, recycling, and reutilization of e-waste. This project addresses challenges to the widespread adoption of WEEE recycling, relating to its technical feasibility and commercial viability. The CIIF-funded infrastructure formed a first-of-its-kind, 8,000 sq. ft. facility leveraging an automated, configurable and commercially viable WEEE Lab. Additionally, this project mitigated the manufacturing commercial risks by enhancing the capacity of Canada's WEEE management industry to share in the responsibility of electronic product lifecycle management and resource recovery. We promoted project outcomes through the Ontario Waste Management Association, the Electronic Products Recycling Associations, and the Circular Economy Lab of Natural Step Canada. We also engaged stakeholders from these organizations and from Environment and Climate Change Canada to ensure the continued relevance of the facility in response to evolving market trends, policies, and regulations affecting the WEEE industry.
The objectives are as follows:
Objective 1: Create and enhance college-industry partnerships leading to business innovation using industry-relevant, state-of-the-art research infrastructure
Objective 2: Build upon proven applied research capacity and successful partnerships with the private sector in an area of strategic priority to the college
Objective 3: Generate socioeconomic benefits in the region, and nationally, including the development of highly skilled personnel
Conestoga College’s WEEE Lab project will address the rapidly increasing environmental and economic issues surrounding proper e-waste disposal by assisting recycling companies with innovative technological solutions. These solutions will improve productivity and sustainability of the solid waste management industry, resulting in protection of the environment, increasing recycling capacity, creating high-skilled manufacturing jobs, training highly qualified personnel (HQP), and advancing domestic Canadian recycling technologies at national and international levels.
A very labour-intensive recycling industry suffers from a lack of automation technology to address the kind of high volume and processing quality that are desired to sustain and grow their businesses. The high cost of manual labour training and liability of exposing the human operators sorting and dismantling toxic electronics are major challenges in a typical e-recycling plant. Through extensive stakeholder engagement, we addressed challenges in four areas of research including intelligent pre-sorting of e-waste, robotic demanufacturing, advanced shredding and sorting, and autonomous material handling. By developing innovative and affordable AI-enabled automated solutions and improving processes in these four areas, a typical e-waste company will drastically increase their productivity. None of these were possible without the CFI grant that we were awarded.
In my opinion, CFI is a very competitive program and the application needed to be very strong, very well budgeted, and at least ten confirmed industry partners and stakeholders.