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Electronics Waste Recycling Business Opportunities

Author:Zhengyang MachineryTimes:2019-08-29
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The electronics recycling business is becoming increasingly important as volumes of e-waste continue to grow, setting the stage for the growth of that industry. The huge growth of consumer electronics has led to an ever-expanding surge of end-of-life electronics that must be recycled. More than just trash, this material can be an environmental and health hazard. It also offers value in terms of scrap rare earth metals, recycled plastics, and spare parts. 

With the average life of a computer being 18 to 24 months and new digital products being developed seemingly by the nanosecond, electronics recycling is now the fastest growing segment of the recycling industry. Electronics recycling “is absolutely a growth industry,” according to Lauren Roman, Business Director for e-Stewards, a recycler certification program launched in 2010 by the Seattle-based Basel Action Network, and backed by business and environmental groups alike. Today, recycling is much more challenging to enter because of regulatory and certification hurdles that e-recyclers must now face.

In the past, Roman explained, a business could just hang up its shingle, begin collecting electronics and start separating it. Offers would come in for various metals and plastics, and over time the business might take steps to improve its processes and expand its volume of incoming end-of-life electronics in order to turn a bigger profit.

The outcome of such an approach resulted in some participants taking unethical shortcuts. This included electronics being improperly dumped offshore and materials ending in landfills where heavy metals could potentially leach out.

“Now with e-certification programs,” Roman stated, “you know that the recycler has gone through a rigid certification process. It is a pretty good indication that they are doing the right thing.” There are currently two voluntary certification programs in the United States. One is the R2/RIOS Certified Electronics Recycler program, supported by ISRI, and the other is e-Stewards.

The e-Stewards standard, for example, calls for recyclers to eliminate exports of hazardous e-wastes to developing countries; to halt the dumping of such wastes in municipal landfills or incinerators, and to cease the use of captive prison populations to manage toxic e- wastes. It also calls for strict protection of private information on recycled devices and occupational health safeguards.

There are also mandatory programs created by several jurisdictions which the entrepreneur must come to understand, where applicable. As for electronics recycling in British Columbia, for example, the Electronics Recycling Standard is enforced by Encorp, which is a not-for-profit organization contracted by the Electronics Stewardship Association of British Columbia and funded through environmental handling fees paid by retail consumers when they purchase affected electronics products. Certification audits are handled by 3rd party inspection companies.

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