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Panasonic claims to have upped the efficiency of its CRT TV recycling operating by turning to, of all things, laser beams.

CRT sets contain different types of glass in the front panel and back funnel, which the human production line at Panasonic Eco Technology Centre in Japan currently separate using an electrically heated wire.

However, this process is time consuming. Unwanted stress fractures can also be created on the glass, Panasonic said.

But the firm’s now perfected a laser cutting technology for separating these two CRT sections that, it claimed, requires less manual work, is cleaner and, ultimately, quicker.

As a result, the centre now processes one tube for recycling in 50 seconds - three times faster than before, Panasonic said. Roughly 300,000 CRT TVs went through the centre last year, but the firm now expects 650,000 to be recycled there in 2011.

And, since the laser’s automated, it’s able to quickly measure a CRT’s size – from 14 to 36in, determine whether the set’s a normal or widescreen model, and switch itself between one of 38 different cutting modes.

Japan’s set to switch over from analogue to digital broadcasts completely in mid-2011. So the country will doubtless see a sharp increase CRT recycling very soon – making the laser-based recycling system a welcome tool.

Panasonic hasn’t announced any plans to focus its laser recycling technology on Blighty, yet. ®

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