Electronic recycling is the fastest-growing segment of the recycling market, with a computer’s average lifespan of 18-24 months and new digital products emerging almost every nanosecond. Lauren Roman, Business Director of e-Stewards (a program that certifies recyclers) says electronics recycling is a “absolutely a growing industry.” The program was launched by the Seattle-based Basel Action Network in 2010. It has been supported by both business and environmental groups. Recycling is now more difficult than ever because of the regulatory and certification hurdles that electronic recyclers must overcome.
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Increased Regulation adds to entry hurdles
Roman explained that in the past, a company could simply hang up its shingle and begin to collect electronics. Then, it would start separating them. There would be offers for different metals and plastics. Over time, the business may take steps to improve its processes or increase its volume of end-of-life electronic shipments to make a greater profit.
Some participants took unethical shortcuts as a result of this approach. These included improperly dumping electronics offshore, and materials ending up in landfills where heavy metallics could potentially leach.
Roman said, “Now with electronic certification programs, you know that the recycler went through a strict certification process. This is a good indicator that they are doing the right things.” The United States currently has two voluntary certification programs. The first is the R2/RIOS Electronics Recycler Program, which is supported by ISRI. The other is e-Stewards.
Graduation of investment. There are many types of businesses involved in e-recycling. The average operation can make between a few million and $60 million annually, according to ISRI. Businesses that only collect, pack and ship used electronics can invest very little, while companies that use sophisticated shredding or separation technologies may spend several million.
Certification costs and time. Roman stated that, depending on the operation, certification can cost between $5,000 and $50,000, and take six months to complete. If you are serious about starting a business, it is advisable to work towards compliance as soon as possible.
Site Security. Site Security. Most e-scrap facilities require restricted access and monitoring. This is because of privacy concerns. These restrictions can be written into contracts to improve the appeal of a recycler to customers.
Safety and Health Another consideration is the safety and health implications of hazardous products being handled. Recyclers must ensure that they have adequate dust collection systems, shower and uniform facilities, as well as other safety features, to avoid exposure to brominated fire retardants, heavy metals and other hazards during the recycling process.
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Legislation. Legislation. However, this may be a positive for the recycling industry as it promotes a higher rate of recovery where landfill bans have been enacted. It may also allow for increased processing in countries where offshore export can be curtailed.
E-Recycling offers business opportunities
Collect Depots: Following the British Columbia example of electronic scrap, the physical flow of the material begins with authorized collection sites. Incorporate contracts at more than 100 locations in B.C. Accept authorized items. They are usually palletized according to their type (computers and televisions, etc.). For shipment to a consolidation centre, they are wrapped and shipped. Many of the B.C. Many of the B.C. collection centers can also be used as beverage can return centers. This generates more business than the e–scrap side. Roman suggested that a collection site might be an affordable way to get involved in e-recycling.
Consolidation Points: A common strategy in logistics is to consolidate points. Consolidation points allow accumulations of less than load (LTL), to be combined into full loads for transportation efficiency. The B.C. The consolidation center is the next stop in the B.C. Encorp has six contracted locations in the province. These locations are where palletized products can be weighed and cross-docked in order to make full loads that can be sent to the recycler. Encorp pays collectors based on the weight of their products. A dock door to allow for unloading and loading trailers and handling equipment is required by any company that wants to be involved in this type consolidation business. Also, a safe storage space for product accumulation is necessary. Consolidation opportunities are also available in other jurisdictions.
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Primary Recycling: Incoming scrap is taken from pallets by operators at Intercon Solutions’ 25,000-square-foot main facility in Illinois. These operators take apart equipment at workstations to sort the material into the appropriate pallet bin. Intercon Solutions ensures that 100% of the incoming material is recycled. There is no material sent to landfill. This results in the release of clean material which is then sent to other approved processors. Brian Brundage is the CEO of Intercon Solutions. He stresses the importance of ensuring that e-waste is handled in a chain of custody. Large companies must consider their reputation and liability, as well as the need for confidentiality of corporate information.