E-Scrap Conference 2013: That’s a Wrap

ISRI would like to thank everyone that stopped by our booth at the 11th Annual E-Scrap Conference – the largest yet! It was great to greet old friends and see new faces. We welcome all new ISRI members who signed up this week and look forward to working with you for years to come. Please do not hesitate to contact us at any time with questions or how you can take advantage of the many services ISRI offers. Feel free to email ISRI Director of Membership Tom Crane or call him at 202-662-8536.

We hope you all had a safe trip home, particularly those on the East Coast who faced significant travel delays.

ISRI would also like to thank those who helped sponsor Monday’s opening reception, which ISRI hosted: AERC Recycling Solutions; Electronic Recyclers International, Inc.; HiTech Assets, Inc.; MRP Company; Regency Technologies; and Wistron.

And finally, a special thanks to Resource Recycling for being such wonderful hosts and making this event possible. We look forward to seeing everyone next year in Orlando, October 22-23.

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Register for ISRI’s Safety Webinar Understanding Lead Exposures and the Hazards to Your Employees and Company Today!

On Thursday, September 19th at 4:00 p.m. (eastern)  ISRI ‘s Live Learning Center will host an important webinar that will discuss the hazards of lead exposure and how to manage the risks it poses to your company and employees.  The webinar will feature ISRI’s director of safety, John Gilstrap.  Gilstrap will present an overview of the hazards of lead, some exposure control strategies and what the law actually requires in the management of lead exposures.  He will also discuss the increase in OSHA enforcement and the stunning fines it is assessing to companies that fail to test for hazards and/or fail to mitigate the hazards when they are found.  Lead exposure is a common hazard in virtually all corners of the recycling industry.  If your company uses cutting torches, handles automotive radiators, breaks cathode ray tubes, or performs any number of other common processing operations, there is a reasonable likelihood that your employees are over-exposed to lead.

This is one webinar that you won’t want to miss!  Register today by going to ISRI’s website ( www.isri.org/webinar ) and click on the blue “Register Now” button at the bottom of the page.  To register, you will need a user id and password.  If you do not know your log on credentials or would like more information about this webinar, please contact Jonathan Levy or Brannan Meyers at webinar@isri.org.

ISRI to State the Case Why RERA is Not the Solution

The 2013 E-Scrap Conference will close later today with Institute of Scrap Recycling Industry’s Eric Harris laying out the facts as to why the “Responsible Electronics Recycling Act” (RERA) is not the solution. Despite its misleading name, Harris will point to a body of evidence showing the legislation is quite the opposite of responsible.

H.R. 2791, introduced this summer by Rep. Gene  Green (TX-29) will negatively influence recycling efforts by undermining existing policies and initiatives, such as those proposed by the Obama Administration and the Interagency Task Force on Federal Electronics Stewardship, and will also violate  international trade laws by unilaterally and arbitrarily banning exports to certain countries.

“The recycling industry applauds the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER) and Congressman Green for introducing legislation with the goal of advancing responsible electronics recycling, but like H.R. 2791’s predecessors, the bill is fatally flawed,” said Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “This bill will do nothing to end irresponsible recycling, and further, will limit any opportunity to promote environmentally sound electronics recycling standards in other countries by perpetuating the outdated approach of identifying environmental risk based simply on geographic location rather than responsible operating practices.

“The determination of whether one can export UEPs to a given recycler or refurbisher should turn upon the basis of the receiving facilities’ qualifications to handle the material in an environmentally-sound and safe manner, not the arbitrary happenstance of whether the facility happens to be located in an OECD country, the EU or Lichtenstein.”

The recycling industry supports efforts that contribute to responsible recycling globally and job creation within the U.S.  The best way to accomplish this is through strict enforcement of current laws – domestic and international; restrictions (such as notification, recordkeeping and due diligence requirements) on the export of unprocessed, non-working UEPs to any country for the purpose of recycling, reuse or refurbishment; a ban on the export of UEPs for landfill or incineration for disposal; and the promotion of global trade in tested, working UEPs for reuse and commodity grade e-scrap for recycling by industrial consumers worldwide.

“We support shutting down bad actors that refuse to recycle responsibly, but we fundamentally disagree with the approach of H.R. 2971 and do not believe that onerous regulations based on misinformation, as clearly stated in the U.S. ITC report, will address the problem,” said Lane Epperson, president and co-founder of HiTech Assets, Inc., an IT asset disposition provider in Oklahoma City, OK, and Memphis, TN.

A March 2013 report on the export of UEPs by the U.S. International Trade Commission, as well as a recent green paper issued by the United Nations University, both discuss the significant positive changes in both U.S. and foreign practices involving electronics recycling and exports – including new recycling technologies, environmental, health and safety certification standards, and new regulations and greater enforcement – since the initial NGO anecdotes on the informal sector were released more than 10 years ago, and should have never been relied upon.

Unfortunately, H.R. 2791 does just that – it relies upon the false premise that up to 80 percent of UEPs collected in the U.S. are exported and dumped in non-OECD countries located outside the EU – a statistic unchanged and put forward by CAER and the Basel Action Network repeatedly before the earliest versions of H.R. 2791 were introduced back in 2009.  In contrast, the ITC found that only 5.1 percent of all UEPs collected each year in the U.S. are currently at risk for improper recycling and disposal.

“The legislation relies on an outdated, disproven model that fails to reflect the reality of the present or future global market,” said Joe Pickard, ISRI’s chief economist. “Moreover, supporters of this bill are trying to fabricate jobs out of a market that simply does not exist. In reality, H.R. 2791will actually reduce domestic competition and lead to job losses.  Even the ITC makes it clear throughout its recently completed report that the export of refurbished UEPs for reuse as well as for commodity materials from recycling plays a very positive role both for the U.S. and the importing countries.”

According to the report, “Assessment of Efforts to Restrict the Trade of Electronic Scrap on Electronic Scrap Recycling Industry Jobs and Exports,” by John Dunham and Associates, many smaller firms would be forced out of business and workers let go should H.R. 2791 pass. As the findings state, a ban “will crowd out small existing businesses and inhibit the entry of newer businesses.”

The session takes place from 1 – 2:30 p.m. in the National Ballrooms C-D.

Infographic: eScrap A World of Opportunity

Over the last decade, electronics recycling has grown into a more than $20 billion industry that employs more than 45,000 employees in the U.S., with still a great deal of potential for further growth. ISRI has released a new infographic that illustrates how far the industry has come and what the future could hold, showing where used electronics come from and where they go, including how more than 82 percent of electronics collected are recycled right here in the U.S. Feel free to download the infographic and share with your customers and others.

eScrap Infographic

Changing the perception of electronics recycling

Despite more than half of the country’s population living in areas where recycling of unwanted electronics is the mandatory form of disposal, recycling rates of residential electronic scrap remain low. The last EPA estimates – from 2008 – guess the average American home has 26 electronic devices in use at any one time. That doesn’t count the millions of unwanted devices stored in kitchen drawers, basements, attics and garages.
What are the greatest hindrances to increasing residential collection of e-scrap? Lack of access to recycling programs – or perceived lack of access – is a significant factor.
Barbara Jorgensen, Community Editor for EBN, a publication for the electronics industry supply chain, posted an article recently about her personal experience with trying to recycle electronics.
In the article, “E-Waste: Not Easy at All,” the author recounts difficulty she experiences coming to grips with the recycling option she found in her local retail store: “I want to get rid of a TV set — a heavy, 35-inch CRT monster — along with a few old printers and monitors. I figured there must be some kind of credit or incentive for lugging my junk to a retail store, but, as it turns out, there’s not.”
She recounts the different rules the store has for recycling of different types of equipment, and notes some of them carry recycling fees. Her biography states she lives in the Boston area. In the article she notes that, rather than recycle her electronics right now, she’ll wait for the next free collection day she can make it to that is sponsored by her local government.
That scenario is repeated across the country in states where consumer-friendly Extended Producer Responsibility laws for electronics are not in place. Such laws generally have some system set up so there is no cost to the consumer at the time of recycling for proper disposal of unwanted electronics.
The article also shows a lingering sentiment in the American psyche that we should be paid for our unwanted electronics, like we’re paid for our recyclable metal and in some states, drink containers. People object to having to pay for having large electronics recycled – perhaps the thought is that these materials, after all, were much more expensive than beverages when they were purchased, and, therefore, should retain more value than water bottles or soda cans when its useful life is through.
However, there’s a reason most electronics recycling companies are based in states where EPR laws – and the mandatory funding of recycling such laws entail – are on the books. Most electronics recyclers will tell you that it’s much easier to establish a new electronics recycling business in areas where governments have set up financial incentives to recycle e-scrap. Also, not all e-scrap commodities are created equal. For example, to a recycler, there are much stronger markets for shredded circuit boards than there are for CRT television sets or computer monitors. Anecdotally, CRTs are the number one electronic product, by weight, collected at community recycling days.
Massachusetts does not currently have EPR laws in place for electronics recycling. Perhaps, to help consumers over the perceived difficulty of electronics recycling, the state should join the 20+ states in the U.S. that have some form of electronic recycling mandate on the books.

First government body granted R2 certification

The Responsible Recycling (R2) certification for electronics recyclers has been granted to the first public body.

Waste Commission of Scott County’s Electronic Demanufacturing Facility has achieved Responsible Recycling (R2) certification Aug. 20, the facility’s operators announced.

“We are proud to be the first R2-certified facility in the state of Iowa,” Keith Krambeck, special waste manager for Waste Commission of Scott County  said in a press release dated Aug. 20. “Becoming R2-certified was one of the goals of the Commission’s Environmental, Health and Safety Management System through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. While we already had an EHSMS in place, the R2 Standard was much more rigorous and our staff worked extremely hard to meet those requirements. Because of this, we feel we have an outstanding EHSMS that will better protect our employees and better serve the needs of our customers,” he said.

The R2 certification ensures producers of electronic scrap that the obsolete computers, monitors, and other goods that the companies handling their materials are doing so in a safe, secure and responsible manner.

The Waste Commission’s facility provides e-scrap recycling services to residents and businesses in Iowa and western Illinois.

Recycling is offered free of charge to or residents of Scott County, Iowa and Rock Island County, Ill. Some areas offer curbside collection of bulky items for recycling. Residents and businesses outside the two core service counties can pay a small fee, based on weight, for recycling services.

The facility accepts anything with a circuit board or cathode ray tube, including: calculators, printer cartridges (all types) Cameras, printers (ribbon, laser, ink jet), stereo equipment, mobile phones, computer peripherals, copy machines, DVD players, electric typewriters, monitor and video game equipment.

According to the agency’s website, the Waste Commission of Scott County is an inter-governmental agency established in 1972 that operates the Scott Area Landfill, Scott Area Recycling Center, Electronic Demanufacturing Facility, two Household Hazardous Material Facilities, a public education program and a Keep America Beautiful affiliate called iLivehere Quad Cities.

R2 and R2/RIOS™ Education Series to be held at September’s E-Scrap conference in Dallas

Following up on a tradition of education at the E-Scrap conference, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries is holding a series of workshops at the annual electronics recycling conference, slated this year to be held in Dallas.

The ISRI workshops are:

The Basics of R2:2008 & R2:2013

Sept. 18, 8-10 a.m.

The first session will focus exclusively on all the basics of the R2: 2008 standard, providing attendees with details and comprehensive understanding of the requirements to become R2 certified.  The session will cater to those looking to learn more about current standards and will highlight changes being considered for R2:2013.  Additionally, the Recycling Industry Operating Standard (RIOS™) will be discussed to showcase a successful environmental, health and safety (EH&S) management system.

Due Diligence & Refurbishment Best Practices

Sept. 18, 10:30 a.m. – noon

To be successful, both internal and external best practices are necessary with downstream partners.  This session will examine both due diligence (R2 Provision 5) and refurbishment (R2 Provision 6).  Speakers will provide step-by-step information to build, streamline and customize your own due diligence program as well as examine best practices to implement for testing, repairing and refurbishing electronics.  Changes considered in R2:2013 will also be discussed.

Registration for both sessions is $125.

Registration for a single session is $85.

Session speakers include: John Lingelbach of R2 Solutions; Kelley Keogh of Greeneye Partners; Corey Dehmey of Momentum; Rike Sandlin of HiTech Assets; Tracey Blaszak of eRecycling Corps; and Sarah Commes of PC Rebuilders & Recyclers.

Fair Trade Recycling

When public outcry and social awareness lead to the development of Fair Trade certification for coffee in the 1980s, Robin Ingenthron, formerly of the U.S. Peace Corps and founder of the WR3A (the World Reuse, Repair and Recycling Alliance), took note of the concept – allow a system of vetting and verification for consumers in rich countries to ensure that the premium they pay for certain services or goods are being produced or conducted in a safe, socially acceptable manner.

When images of children growing up in the midst of unsafe electronics recycling operations began flooding the nation’s consciousness, Ingenthron saw an opportunity to expand the concept to areas outside agriculture. As a result, he is getting ready to launch Fair Trade Recycling, a company that ensures electronics exported to developing nations for reuse or recycling is handled properly.

“If you put a blanket ban on anything, all you’ve done is drive the industry underground,” Ingenthron says. That would exacerbate problems of unsafe working conditions, labor practices and disregard for the environment, he says.

Instead of assuming recyclers in developing nations will automatically ‘recycle’ electronics by burning plastics to get at precious metals in open fields while cooking for their families over the same fire, Ingenthron decided to see how recycling is really being carried out in places like Taiwan, China and Malaysia. What he found surprised him, and led him to create WR3A, an organization that uses market-driven solutions to address perceived problems within the electronics reuse and recycling field.

“We have been impressed by self-educated technicians, struggling to provide internet, health, education and democracy through free market and trade,” according to his organization’s website.

“Unlike stewardship programs based on “pledges”, “promises”, and “goals”, WR3A is based on civil law, or contracts.   Our members believe that contracts and lawsuits are easier to enforce than international law.  Our preference is to sign up companies already doing business under state or national contract, such as California, Massachusetts, or Maine, when the contract has environmental performance and reuse measures.  When those companies violate the contract, we can call the state Attorney General’s Office,” according to the web site. Ingenthron is a supporter of the R2 standard for electronics whose facilities are certified in Vermont.

The WR3A vets its contracting companies and that company’s downstream recyclers – companies that process materials an electronics recycler might not be able to handle in-house, like CRT glass or copper wire.

“We wanted to make the process more transparent,” Ingenthron says.

Fair Trade Recycling would mean companies looking for a market for reusable electronic products gathered in the U.S. would be able to look farther afield for end markets for their used displays, cell phones and laptops without having to fear for the safety of the environment or the workers handling the recycling and testing.

What happens to your electronics when you drop them off for recycling?

Recycling electronics is big business – an estimated $5 billion in the U.S. economy is attributable to businesses involved in the repair, refurbishing and recycling of used and end-of-life electronics, also known as “e-scrap.”

But what really happens when you drop off an old laptop for recycling? Let’s follow a hypothetical piece of e-scrap on its way to becoming new products.

An old Sony laptop is brought into the annual Keep Fallbrook Clean and Green in Fallbrook, Ca.

Sometimes, community organizations hold recycling drives - for aluminum cans or electronics - as a way to raise money.

This annual event is like many community-sponsored electronics collection events – residents can bring their old computers and laptops, mobile devices and other electronics for recycling while doing other activities to beautify their properties and neighborhoods. In California, items with display screens, like old CRT (old tube-style) and new flat-panels and  laptops, among others, are prohibited from being sent to state landfills.

Once a pallet or two of electronics have been collected, the organization sponsoring the collection notifies E-World Recyclers, a Vista, Ca. recycler. The laptop travels with other electronics turned in during the event to E-World’s recycling centers.

Several hundred pounds can be collected at electronics recycling events.

Once inside the recycling center, the laptop is inventoried, and a report generated indicating when the laptop was received, where it was collected and its brand and model number.

Next it is tested – just because it’s been turned in for recycling doesn’t mean it is unusable. Reuse and refurbishment is a very important part of the electronics recycling industry. International Data Corporation estimates that about 30 percent of the 3.5 million tons of electronics collected in the U.S. for recycling in 2010 were reused in some fashion.

The laptop is evaluated and tested to see if it can be resold as one unit.

Reuse of electronics is an important part of recycling.

If not, any usable parts are taken and resold – there is a strong market for quality second hand laptop parts, especially for parts like LCDs and CPUs.

Now that the useable parts are stripped out of the laptop, further breakdown occurs. Steel from the body of the laptop is set aside to get recycled into new steel – The Steel Recycling Institute estimates that flat-rolled steel products contain about 30% recycled content while steel produced domestically for  structural shapes have about 80% recycled content.

Aluminum is also highly recyclable – and is an ever increasing part of the new electronics sold every year. Nearly half of the average aluminum beverage can (44 percent) is made from recycled aluminum, the Aluminum Association reports.

Copper wires are bundled and sent to wire cutters and copper smelters. Circuit boards are set aside and sent to a special circuit board recycler and plastics head out to plastic recyclers where they’re made into any number of new products.

Batteries are collected and sent to a company that specializes in battery recycling.

Hard drives are sensitive parts of electronics. These drives can have all matter of personal and sensitive data on them – while they can be sanitized and resold, E-World Recyclers has decided to handle them in a different manner. The company catalogs each hard drive and secures it until it is destroyed.

When it is time for destruction, the hard drives go into a shredder that was specially built to completely destroy hard drives. The shredded hard drives then go to a refining company for further recovery.  There, eddy current separators remove aluminum from the shredded harddrive mix; copper comes out of the stream through the use of reverse polarity magnets, while traditional magnets pick out any steel left over. Plastics are removed through shaking systems, and platinum and other precious metals are recovered as well.

Hard drives are inventoried and kept secure until destruction.

Shredding hard drives destroys any data contained in the device and makes it safe for recycling.

In the end, the Sony laptop dropped off in September is now heading out as unique, specification grade commodities (steel, aluminum, and copper) into the manufacturing stream, where the commodities it was made from can become new steel, aluminum and copper products.