RECYCLING: A Growing Opportunity

E-waste is growing by more than bits and bytes as outdated stereos, TV sets and VCRs make way for newer technology. As these products pile up in garages, attics and basements, electronic waste (e-waste) recycling efforts have become a priority for businesses and municipalities.

To take action on burgeoning e-waste, Houston-based Waste Management Inc., began to offer e-waste recycling several years ago under its Phoenix, Ariz.-based Recycling America subsidiary. Simultaneously, the company has focused on large commercial accounts, such as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and other commercial businesses, to expand its electronics recycling.

Services now are provided to public, private and nonprofit customers in 20 states through a network of more than 50 collection depots and four regional processing centers. Recycle America's electronics recycling program, branded eCycling in March 2002, is expected to recycle more than 40 million pounds of e-waste by the end of the year.

Recycling America's collection services include curbside collection, typically through bulky goods and drop-off programs for electronics. The company also has hosted than more 40 special collection events this year in California, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota and several other states.

Processing costs range from $0.15 per pound to $0.35 per pound, depending on the commodity, customer needs (e.g., product identification, proprietary destruction, ability to resell) and material quantities. Rebates also are offered for precious metals, working and resalable equipment and components, and other select e-waste streams.

Recycle America faces challenges with electronics recycling. Even with the economies of scale and strong commodity marketing capabilities, the company has difficulty with certain markets that change frequently or are underdeveloped.

“The U.S. electronics recycling industry must overcome immature markets for materials such as cathode ray tubes (CRTs) and plastics,” the company says.

Despite the challenges, Recycle America encourages other businesses and municipalities to develop their own e-waste recycling programs. Doing so will help reduce a city's or company's disposal costs, better manage resources and minimize future liabilities from storing potentially hazardous products, according to the company.

The eCycling program, which began in 1996, has grown three-fold this year compared to 2001 and nearly eight-fold since 2000, particularly with municipal and government contracts, according to the company. Recycle America expects high growth from municipalities and limited commercial growth until an economic recovery is in full swing.

To prepare for growth, Recycle America is adding to its number of existing e-depots and e-waste consolidation facilities. Also, the company has focused on developing partnerships with other recyclers to deliver service through an integrated network of local and regional facilities.

For more information on Recycle America's eCycling services, call Richard Marker or Joe Aho toll-free at (866) 588-0572.