LCD waste from electronics is the fastest growing waste stream from Europe. One way to cut down on LCDs heading to the landfill: Turn them into medication. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi flick, but researchers at the University of York have discovered that waste from old LCD TVs can be recycled for medical purposes.
That’s because polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA), one of the materials used in polarizing films on the front and back of LCD displays , can be transformed into pills, dressings, and even a substance used in tissue scaffolds to help body parts regenerate. PVA isn’t normally used in these applications, but the researchers have figured out that it doesn’t provoke an immune system response, so it could be used in any number of medical settings.
The process for recycling PVA is simple. Just douse the material in water, stick it in a microwave, and wash it in ethanol. This produced “expanded PVA” suitable for medical use.
There is still plenty of research to be done before PVA becomes a common medical material–the University of York scientists note that “The effect of additives and small molecules present in recycled material is the subject of continued investigation with regard to their use in biomedical applications”. Until researchers figure out if these additives and molecules produce unwanted effects in the human body, we won’t be popping pills made from recycled LCDs.