Saturday, March 1, 2008

BEFORE BEING TERMINATED by the Terminator, former California Gov. Gray Davis signed the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 into law on Sept. 27, representing the nation's first electronics recycling law.

Striving to create a community that better manages the more than 10,000 computers and TVs that become obsolete in California each day, the law Davis approved includes several main provisions. Beginning on July 1, 2004, consumers will pay a $6 to $10 fee on electronic products with 4-inch and larger video display screens, which also applies to mail order and Internet sales.
If a retailer does not impose the required fee on qualifying electronic goods, the Sacramento-based California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) can assign penalties up to $7,500 per violation. Revenues from the recycling fee and penalties will be placed into an Electronic Waste and Recycling account that covers the operating costs of e-waste drop-off sites.
The new law also requires that electronics manufacturers annually report to the CIWMB approximate sales of applicable products, the amount of hazardous materials used in making the goods, and what effort has been made to reduce hazardous waste and design more recyclable electronics.

Additionally, before any e-waste is exported, 60 days advance notice must be given to the Sacramento-based California Environmental Protection Agency's Department of Toxic Substances and Control (DTSC). E-waste exporters also must demonstrate that it is legal to send used electronics to the importing country where it will be managed in an environmentally proper way.

The new recycling law still faces controversy, however. The Basel Action Network (BAN), an activist group that attempts to stop international toxic waste, states that the law fails to make the electronics industry more responsible for managing its defunct products.

The law only deals with computer monitors and TVs and does not make manufacturers “take back” or recycle their products. BAN says the law lacks a market-based incentive for the production of less toxic waste. “Not only does the [law] fail miserably to make producers responsible for cleaning up their act and producing less toxic [e-waste],” says Jim Puckett, coordinator for BAN, “but more waste than ever before will likely be exported.”

Controversy aside, many in the waste industry say the law is a good start. Chaz Miller, state programs director for the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Industry Associations (EIA), says banning disposal of e-waste in California encourages public and private haulers to recycle.

“This is no longer an unfunded mandate, and we think it will make e-waste recycling viable.”
Whether other states will follow California's lead on e-waste legislation remains to be seen. “It probably will be looked at by other states and used as a model if it is successful,” says John Skinner, executive director and CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Md. “What you don't want is a series of different state laws, which would be hard for the industry to comply with.”

Friday, February 29, 2008

Across the country, local governments are faced with the challenge of meeting recycling goals, reducing solid waste tonnage and minimizing costs. Glass is one of the most challenging materials to recycle, with most county and city recycling programs incurring net costs to recycle the material. Over the years, several alternative uses for recycled glass have been identified, such as “glassphalt” and landscaping applications. However, a Florida program evaluating the feasibility of using pulverized recycled glass for beach renourishment may provide a cost-effective approach for managing this material.

In the July 2005 issue of Waste Age, an article entitled “Beach in a Bottle” (www.wasteage.com/mag/waste_beach_bottle/index.html) described a project that Broward County, Fla., is conducting to investigate the feasibility of using recycled glass for beach renourishment. The following is an update on that project.

The first phase was designed to gauge public perception of the project while conducting a comparative analysis of the properties of natural beach sand and the artificial sand made from glass cullet. On the public perception side, tourism officials and beach professionals were very interested in the concept, while Broward County residents found the idea equally appealing. Meanwhile, geotechnical and contaminant analyses of grain size, distribution, munsell color, carbonate content, grain angularity and chemical composition revealed that glass cullet compares closely to natural sand.

More recently, the county has been conducting additional research to determine the long-term viability of using recycled glass for beach erosion control and renourishment.

Aquarium and Abiotic Testing

In 2005, the county developed a biological analysis program to monitor the survivability of fish and other fauna species within specific proportions of natural sand and glass cullet. Species then were introduced into a matrix comprised of varying ratios of cullet and natural sand. The species' ability to survive was monitored for any deviations from natural sand. The glass cullet utilized for these and subsequent tests was similar in grain size to natural beach sand (approx. 0.33 to 0.90 mm). After two months of testing, officials determined that pulverized glass cullet does not adversely affect macro or microorganisms. The species studied displayed normal active behavior with the glass cullet and showed no adverse signs of physical stress. Results indicated that the organism mortality rate was equivalent to natural sand.

In March 2006, a test plot was constructed on the upland portion of Hollywood Beach for a six-month experiment to determine if glass cullet mixtures exhibit the same abiotic characteristics (temperature, moisture content, gas exchange) when compared to natural beach sand. The test plot simulated a sea turtle hatchery enclosure and contained 16 individual test areas, each measuring 5 feet square and 3 feet deep. The results indicated that the glass cullet/sand mixtures displayed no significant difference from natural sand, and the mixtures could allow for proper sea turtle embryo development.

Next Steps

The overall results of the geotechnical, public perception, aquarium and abiotic tests indicate that the project is technically feasible. In Broward County, the presence of nesting loggerhead turtles and the beach-based economy create unique concerns that must be considered and addressed in all beach erosion control and renourishment efforts. However, research shows that manufacturing a sand product from recycled glass is a promising solution anywhere beaches are eroding and glass is a net cost to recycle.

Broward County currently is permitting phase two of this demonstration project, which will involve experimental testing at the shoreline on Hollywood Beach. Approximately 2,000 cubic yards of pulverized glass cullet will be placed at the shoreline, allowing the county and its project consultants to monitor its performance and evaluate its similarities to the existing beach sand when subjected to wind and waves. Specifically, the testing will determine if glass cullet can be used to address erosion “hot spots” on the beach, which are smaller areas that suffer from critical erosion problems. As part of this phase, the county also will be investigating the feasibility of long-term methods of producing the pulverized glass.

Peter Foye, Director, Recycling and Contract Division, Broward County, Fla.; Phil Bresee, Recycling Program Manager, Broward County, Fla.; Sanford Gutner, PE, Senior Associate, Malcolm Pirnie Inc.; Holly M. P. Burton, PE, Associate, Malcolm Pirnie Inc.; Ryann M. Davis, Engineer, Malcolm Pirnie Inc.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

WHEN CALIFORNIA PASSED the Electronic Waste and Recycling Act of 2003, it became the first state to legislate the handling and disposal of e-waste. The act establishes a point-of-purchase fee ranging from $6 to $10 that consumers will pay to retailers to help cover the costs of e-waste recycling.

Nevertheless, the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), Sacramento, expects the management and operational costs for haulers, municipalities, and recyclers of e-waste to increase as the number of one-day special events to collect the waste grows. Curbside and commingled collection methods often are not practical for monitors and tvs because these items tend to be too bulky for residential pickups and have high breakage rates.

In anticipation of this trend, and to help smooth out some of the challenges of hosting collection events, Peninsula Sanitary Services Inc. (PSSI), Stanford, Calif., Dell Computers, Round Rock, Texas, and the National Recycling Coalition (NRC), Washington, D.C., developed a public-private partnership and sponsored a two-day e-waste collection workshop at Stanford University in October. The workshop uncovered three top challenges to e-waste collection events: controlling finances, managing logistics and quantifying the event.

Controlling finances

Based on PSSI's workshop, the partners estimate an e-waste collection event can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,00 for a small event to $25,000 to $50,000 for a large hauler. PSSI's collection budget was approximately $15,000.

Workshop leaders say inviting corporate sponsors and donors to participate — a task that is not so easily accomplished — is one of the best ways to cut costs. Few major computer manufacturers are willing to pay for the collection of e-waste that is not their own. Local ordinances also may prevent a sponsor from advertising on public property with banners or logos. However, obtaining federal, state, local or private foundation grants and soliciting volunteers will help entice corporate sponsors because companies will be more likely to participate if the financial burden will be shared.

To attract unpaid volunteers, companies should allow partners, civic groups or nonprofit organizations to receive the donated computers. Volunteer Match [www.volunteermatch.com] can be used to help find volunteer event staffing. Remember to train volunteers and to obtain a waiver or signed release from them excusing the waste hauler or event sponsor from liability.

Managing logistics

Logistics are best left up to professional service providers because they have expertise in acquiring the necessary permits, security, traffic control, insurance, signage, safety equipment, containers, semi tractor-trailers, forklifts, drivers and material handlers. Additionally, a key component of the collection of monitors is reuse or resale. It is important that a logistics company with experience in handling electronics be used to ensure a higher yield rate on materials.

Quantifying the event

Quantifying an event can help advertise and promote future workshops, and it can land additional grant money. Numbers and statistics will prove to potential sponsors and to the public that the waste hauler is operating efficiently.

PSSI collected more than 47 tons of surplus, obsolete or end-of-life monitors, computers and related equipment. With a budget of $15,000, collection costs amounted to approximately $319 per ton, which is toward the low end of the spectrum. Studies conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., state that e-waste collection costs range from $240 per ton to $1,240 per ton.

In addition to adding e-waste runs to curbside routes, increasing one-day e-waste events demonstrates the waste industry's concern and creativity in solving an environmental problem. More information on e-waste events can be found in “Computer Recycling for Education,” available at Barnes & Noble Bookstores or www.computerrecycleforeduc.com.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wireless Worries

HIGH-PITCHED DIGITAL MELODIES and the phrase, “Can you hear me now?” have become mainstream in recent years, thanks to the growing popularity of wireless phones. But while consumers are buying phones equipped with games, text messaging and cameras, the industry has yet to provide for another important demand — an easy disposal system for that outdated phone and a product that is easy to recycle or refurbish.

Next year, Americans are predicted to buy more than 100 million new cell phones and stuff their old phones into closets, drawers and other nooks around the house or office. At that point, the stockpile of out-of-service phones will rise to 500 million units weighing 250,000 tons (about one pound each), according to “Calling All Cell Phones,” a 2003 report by Inform Inc., a New York-based research organization.

“The numbers today are the same as what we found in 2003,” says Eric Most, who authored the Inform report. “At current rates of recovery, hundreds of millions of used cell phones will soon wind up in landfills or incinerators where they'll release arsenic, lead, cadmium and many other toxic materials that threaten human health and the environment,” he says.

Thus, the cell phone industry is scrambling to develop comprehensive disposal alternatives. Cell phone recycling programs are moving in the right direction, Most says, but their scope is dwarfed by the stunning growth of the industry. In 1995, wireless phone carriers supplied service to approximately 34 million subscribers. At the beginning of 2003, there were 141 million cell phone users. According to industry estimates, the average cell phone lasts about 1.5 years. If this estimate is correct, 141 million more phones will require disposal by the end of 2005.

But developing recycling streams for new products takes time. Between 1999 and early 2003, cell phone recycling efforts netted fewer than 5 million phones, about 1 percent of those discarded.

Wireless industry affiliates account for the lion's share of discarded cell phone collection and recycling, according to Inform. Programs include Donate-A-Phone, operated by the Washington, D.C.-based Wireless Foundation, and the Call-To-Protect program, which Verizon Wireless of Bedminster, N.J., operates through its organization HopeLine. AT&T Wireless recently entered the field with a Wireless Reuse & Recycle program.

Additionally, a number of manufacturers and wireless carriers participate in Wireless Foundation programs: Alltel, Cingular, Motorola, Nextel, Rural Cellular Corp. and Sprint. These programs refurbish phones and donate them to charities or resell them to new users. Cell phones that cannot be refurbished are recycled back into the manufacturing process. However, that leaves 495 million cell phones with no place to go but the landfill.

“Bottom line, this is a matter for concern, but not alarm,” says Bruce Parker, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), a sub-association of the Environmental Industry Association (EIA). “Every few years, the e-waste stream changes as technology replaces older products. The technical ability to discover toxic and potentially negative aspects of electronic products is still far ahead of the ability to deal with those discoveries in terms of social policies.”

Parker goes on to note that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., currently is working with companies that manufacture electronic products to develop an infrastructure of programs to refurbish and recycle e-waste, including cell phones. Yet he believes the responsibility for dealing with e-waste must ultimately fall on manufacturers and retailers.

“It is an upstream responsibility,” Parker says. “We are part of the loop in that we eyeball incoming trash and comply with landfill bans by sending banned materials back. But you can't deal with the problem itself downstream at the landfill.”

The Inform report draws a similar conclusion and recommends a number of steps to help cell phone retailers and manufacturers control the problem.

The recommendations include national advertising campaigns that advise consumers to return their old cell phones to stores and manufacturers, to take advantage of cell phone collection drives, and to donate cell phones to charities that refurbish and redistribute the phones.
Inform also recommends that manufacturers develop more durable plastic components to reduce the number of parts that must be replaced during phone refurbishing. Manufacturers also could standardize cell phone design elements, such as adapters, batteries and accessories, to speed refurbishing and allow more parts to be recycled back into manufacturing. Other recommendations include reducing toxic contaminants in parts, simplifying software reprogramming procedures and color-coding batteries to simplify sorting.

The Inform report also makes four suggestions to public policy makers:

Require consumers to make deposits on cell phone purchases. The promise of a refund would provide an incentive to return used phones for reuse and recycling.
Institute landfill bans on cell phones.

Make manufacturers responsible for managing end-of-life cell phones to create incentives for manufacturers to design products that are easier to refurbish and recycle.
Evaluate the effectiveness of such policies by requiring manufacturers, retailers and recyclers to report on the collection, recycling, refurbishment and eventual end-use of old cell phones.
Efforts to keep cell phones out of landfills may not hold huge selling power among consumers. But if the industry continues to develop technology at its current pace, investing in reusable products could be music to the waste industry's ears.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Does recycling pay?

In the early 1980s, New Jersey environmental officials adopted a slogan: "Recycling Pays." They now regret that choice of words.

Recycling managers in New Jersey and throughout the nation are in-creasingly under scrutiny to justify the costs and benefits of their operations. Many managers feel that they are fighting against the unrealistic expectations of residents and elected officials, who want to see profits from the sale of recycled materials.

As providers of public services, recycling managers should be able to quantify the costs and benefits of their programs, but the programs should not be judged against a profit goal. Because recycling is a solid waste management option, it should be judged against competing options such as source reduction, landfilling, incineration and composting.

The critical question is not, "Did your recycling program cost the residents money?" Cost is unavoidable and must be expected. Instead, ask, "Do the recycling costs reduce the total cost of disposing your community's solid waste?" Residents expect to pay for garbage disposal, and recycling is simply an alternative method for disposing of their household waste.

To answer these cost-benefit questions, first identify the community's or organization's total cost of recycling. Then, compare that figure to costs that would have been incurred without recycling. The calculation is built around the following formula: Net costs or savings of recycling is equal to total recycling collection and processing costs plus or minus recycling disposal costs minus avoided costs of garbage collection and disposal.

For managers at public agencies, some relevant costs may be difficult to quantify. For example, private firms must account for the cost of renting or acquiring property and facilities such as garages or administrative office space. Public operations often do not have comparable costs on their ledgers, but the costs can be estimated using average local rental rates for office and garage space. Total costs also must include direct and overhead costs of employees whose functions are not directly related to recycling programs, such as receptionists, lawyers, custodians and auditors.

Many publicly run programs have never had to consider such items, but they must be included to determine the full cost of providing a public service.

Next, add these costs to any additional charges required to dispose the recyclables. If you are able to sell your materials rather than pay to dispose them, sales revenue should be subtracted from program costs to determine the total cost of recycling. Regional price differences, transportation costs, quality factors and volatility in market prices may dictate that some operations receive money for their materials while others pay markets to accept them.
Finally, the total costs of recycling must be compared with any reduced garbage collection and disposal costs to determine the net costs or savings of recycling.

Figuring It Out To illustrate the point, consider an example in which a municipal recycling program identifies $147,810 in direct and overhead expenses to provide curbside commingled recycling to a community of 15,000 residents. The program collected 1,950 tons of recyclables, and it paid an average of $10 per ton to send its recyclables to a privately operated material recovery facility.

In one year, the community contracted with a private hauler to collect solid waste at a fixed cost of $357,000 for the year, paid a garbage tipping fee of $100 per ton at a transfer station and disposed 9,440 tons of garbage.

The calculations for net cost or savings of recycling are:

* The cost of recycling collection ($147,810) plus the cost of disposing recyclables (1,950 tons at $10 per ton) equals the total cost of recycling ($167,310).

Does recycling pay?

In the early 1980s, New Jersey environmental officials adopted a slogan: "Recycling Pays." They now regret that choice of words.


Recycling managers in New Jersey and throughout the nation are in-creasingly under scrutiny to justify the costs and benefits of their operations. Many managers feel that they are fighting against the unrealistic expectations of residents and elected officials, who want to see profits from the sale of recycled materials.


As providers of public services, recycling managers should be able to quantify the costs and benefits of their programs, but the programs should not be judged against a profit goal. Because recycling is a solid waste management option, it should be judged against competing options such as source reduction, landfilling, incineration and composting.


The critical question is not, "Did your recycling program cost the residents money?" Cost is unavoidable and must be expected. Instead, ask, "Do the recycling costs reduce the total cost of disposing your community's solid waste?" Residents expect to pay for garbage disposal, and recycling is simply an alternative method for disposing of their household waste.


To answer these cost-benefit questions, first identify the community's or organization's total cost of recycling. Then, compare that figure to costs that would have been incurred without recycling. The calculation is built around the following formula: Net costs or savings of recycling is equal to total recycling collection and processing costs plus or minus recycling disposal costs minus avoided costs of garbage collection and disposal.


For managers at public agencies, some relevant costs may be difficult to quantify. For example, private firms must account for the cost of renting or acquiring property and facilities such as garages or administrative office space. Public operations often do not have comparable costs on their ledgers, but the costs can be estimated using average local rental rates for office and garage space. Total costs also must include direct and overhead costs of employees whose functions are not directly related to recycling programs, such as receptionists, lawyers, custodians and auditors.


Many publicly run programs have never had to consider such items, but they must be included to determine the full cost of providing a public service.


Next, add these costs to any additional charges required to dispose the recyclables. If you are able to sell your materials rather than pay to dispose them, sales revenue should be subtracted from program costs to determine the total cost of recycling. Regional price differences, transportation costs, quality factors and volatility in market prices may dictate that some operations receive money for their materials while others pay markets to accept them.
Finally, the total costs of recycling must be compared with any reduced garbage collection and disposal costs to determine the net costs or savings of recycling.


Figuring It Out To illustrate the point, consider an example in which a municipal recycling program identifies $147,810 in direct and overhead expenses to provide curbside commingled recycling to a community of 15,000 residents. The program collected 1,950 tons of recyclables, and it paid an average of $10 per ton to send its recyclables to a privately operated material recovery facility.


In one year, the community contracted with a private hauler to collect solid waste at a fixed cost of $357,000 for the year, paid a garbage tipping fee of $100 per ton at a transfer station and disposed 9,440 tons of garbage.


The calculations for net cost or savings of recycling are:


* The cost of recycling collection ($147,810) plus the cost of disposing recyclables (1,950 tons at $10 per ton) equals the total cost of recycling ($167,310).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Petal to the Metal

FOR ALL THE DATA that goes into computers, many elements come out. When computers become obsolete, metals such as steel, aluminum, wire, cable and other resources can be extracted and recycled. But other more dangerous materials are also potential byproducts of electronics recovery, including toxics such as lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium. With electronics recycling receiving increasing scrutiny, the pressure is on manufacturers and electronics recyclers to prove that they can dismantle, recycle and dispose of electronics in a responsible way.

It is precisely because of this scrutiny that Noranda Recycling Inc. recently sought ISO 14001 environmental certification for its East Providence, R.I., recovery facility; it received certification in January. The San Jose, Calif.-based company is one of the largest electronics recyclers in the world, so maintaining an environmentally sound operation is critical. “The plan is to have all five of Noranda's recycling facilities certified this year,” says Steve Skurnac, Noranda Recycling's president. “It's important for us because our customers look at ISO certification as a validation of the systems we have in place. It's an international standard, so it sells well in Europe and Asia. Having the certification speeds up the process of customer evaluation.”

Noranda's Rhode Island facility, which employs 30 people and processes about 5,500 to 7,500 tons per year of e-scrap, is just one aspect of the multifaceted company. After a corporate reorganization in 2003, Noranda Recycling says it is ready to handle the onslaught of electronics entering the waste stream every day.

E-Waste in Overdrive

According to the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 2 million tons of electronic waste are buried in landfills each year. By 2005, the agency predicts that nearly 250 million computers will become obsolete and require disposal. Yet in 2001, only 11 percent of personal computers retired in the United States were recycled. Computers are just the most obvious e-waste culprit; hand-held devices, cell phones and other small electronics also are piling up. In the next year, the EPA estimates that 130 million mobile phones will be discarded.

More than half of all end-of-life electronics are shipped to Asia, where environmental and technological capabilities to recycle them are limited. In February 2003, the European Commission published the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, placing financial responsibility for recycling end-of-life electronics on manufacturers. Stateside corporate responsibility programs are on the rise as well, with several computer and electronics manufacturers establishing take-back and recycling programs.

To meet the growing demand for electronics recycling, Toronto-based Noranda Inc. — an international mining and metals company — announced last summer that it had reorganized its U.S.-based recycling operations into one company, called Noranda Recycling. The new company brings together three facilities in San Jose and Roseville, Calif., and Lavergne, Tenn., that had previously been operated by Micro Metallics Corp., as well as the East Providence facility, which had been operated by Noranda Sampling Inc. The company also opened an electronics recycling facility in Brampton, Ontario, last year.

Together, the five facilities make Noranda Recycling one of the largest processors of precious metal-bearing electronic materials in North America. The new company employs about 200 people and processes between 75,000 and 170,000 tons of recyclable raw materials each year.
“Last summer, we realized that we were getting some critical mass,” Skurnac says. “We were going to have five different sites operating, so we said, ‘Let's have a new company in the states, to give our Noranda name much more branding’ … Now it's much clearer and allows us to treat all five facilities as one operation. From a business perspective, we're all in this together.”
Although they are managed under one umbrella, Noranda Recycling's five facilities have different missions. The San Jose and East Providence facilities focus on copper and precious metal recovery from electronics, telecommunications, automotive, refining and metal fabrication industries. The Brampton, Roseville and Lavergne facilities focus on end-of-life electronics recycling through partnerships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard (HP). Noranda's newest facility in Brampton recovers a typical variety of materials — hardware, CD-ROMs, tape drives, disk drives, CD writers, modems and circuit boards.

“The two plants on the extreme coasts, the San Jose facility and the old Noranda Sampling facility [in Rhode Island], are geared around metal-bearing electronics recovery,” Skurnac explains. “If you sent them material, there's a 99 percent chance we're going to pay you for the metal contained in that material. If you send material to Roseville or Nashville or Brampton, you will be paying us to take the material.”

Playing it Safe

Noranda's operation is centered on its electronics “take-back” partnerships with HP and other manufacturers, which began at the Roseville facility in the mid-1990s. In July 2002, HP built on this relationship by launching a take-back service for Canadians to recycle unwanted computers and equipment from any manufacturer. The service includes pickup, transportation, evaluation for reuse or donation, and recycling for products ranging from printers to scanners. Noranda then provides HP and other OEMs with disassembly, product testing and metal recovery services at its Tennessee facility.

Other manufacturers may be as for ward-thinking as HP, but not as forthcoming. “We do provide a similar service to other OEMs,” Skurnac says. “It's similar in that the manufacturers manage the internal program, then we take over when it comes time to handling the material. So it's a very close relationship we have to those groups. They want to do the right thing, but not bring a lot of scrutiny to themselves.”

In 2003, the San Jose-based Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an electronics watchdog organization, and the Computer TakeBack Campaign, a similarly minded coalition, released a report that examined HP's partnership with Noranda and the Roseville facility, comparing it with a similar deal between Austin, Texas-based Dell Inc., and Washington, D.C.-based UNICOR. The report examined the partnerships based on three criteria: Transparency and accountability to the public; general compliance with occupational health and safety standards; and use of best recycling practices and their potential for wide adoption by the private sector.
The report praised the Noranda facility for allowing the coalition's industrial hygienist to inspect the facility freely and speak informally with employees. Noranda also had developed efficient warehousing systems that electronically tracked materials throughout the recycling process. Disassembly workstations were well-lit, ergonomically designed and computerized, with each workbench equipped with a hand-held device to scan and retrieve information about the equipment to be salvaged, the report stated.

Safety also was paramount in the Roseville facility, according to the report. Chairs and tabletops could be adjusted for worker comfort, and motorized pallet jackets and forklifts were used to avoid worker injury. Workers were encouraged to provide feedback on product design and to suggest alternative tools to improve safety and efficiency. Additionally, brooms were removed from the facility and replaced with vacuum cleaners to control dust, which can contain lead, flame retardants and other toxins from computer dismantling and shredding operations.
The report concluded that the Noranda facility “demonstrated characteristics that other electronic waste managers and policy decision makers might emulate as they begin to develop recycling programs.”

These characteristics include:

Eliminating tools, such as hammers, that cause injury and health hazards;
Developing efficient warehousing systems that electronically track materials through the recycling process;

Installing mechanized systems, such as crushers, that reduce worker exposure to toxics;
Developing work stations designed to reduce ergonomic hazards;

Developing a database that allows workers to access information on hazardous materials; and
Providing non-management representation on the company's health and safety committee.

“It was a good experience to visit a work site where there appears to be a significant investment in occupational and environmental health and safety,” the lead investigator wrote.

Minding the Market

In the United States, electronics “recyclers” have been widely criticized for sending obsolete high-tech trash to Asia, where unsafe dismantling systems pose threats to Asian workers and the environment. “There are two key things that pop up in this business,” Skurnac says. “One relates to recycling operators and this whole notion of environmentally sound management of the equipment. We make the point that, if you call yourself an electronics recycler, make sure that you are not just brokering material to destinations unknown. And if you're a company who's disposing of the material, make sure you know where it's going. Any reputable recycling company can give you that information.”

In the meantime, Noranda and other recyclers are facing new electronics legislation. Dozens of states have passed or are considering bills to legislate the disposal and recycling of electronic waste. Some states have instituted landfill bans on certain electronics or have created fees to support funds for electronics recycling. Congress is considering national electronics legislation and in March, the EPA announced a pilot project to measure the economic impacts of environmentally sound electronics management. “If you're going to be in electronics recycling,” Skurnac says, “you better be willing to be involved in public policy.”

In the midst of this highly charged and increasingly regulated sector, North American recyclers are still dealing with the widespread export of scrap to China. “The commodity metal markets have improved, but that has less of an impact on our business than people think,” Skurnac says. “We're buying raw material. So if the price of gold goes up, the customer expects to be paid more. What it might do is drive material to us that wasn't worth recycling before. You might make the argument that there's more material in the marketplace. But with China buying every bit of scrap material, it hasn't made it easier for Noranda or anyone to source raw material.”
In fact, Noranda was able to open its Brampton facility in part because another electronics recycler could not compete in a difficult marketplace. “We basically stepped in and bought all of their equipment, and we went out and acquired a brand new building,” Skurnac says. Today, he reports that volumes in Canada are substantially higher than the company originally had anticipated.

Skurnac is confident that the electronics recycling business will grow. New legislation in Europe and elsewhere is likely to send more materials to Noranda's facilities, which could easily accept increased feedstock, he says. “Hopefully, a year from now we'll have more plants or the ones we have will be so busy we won't know what to do with ourselves. We think there are market opportunities for growth, and we plan to be a part of that.”

Kim A. O'Connell is a contributing editor based in Arlington, Va.

WasteExpo Watch

Petal to the Metal

FOR ALL THE DATA that goes into computers, many elements come out. When computers become obsolete, metals such as steel, aluminum, wire, cable and other resources can be extracted and recycled. But other more dangerous materials are also potential byproducts of electronics recovery, including toxics such as lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium. With electronics recycling receiving increasing scrutiny, the pressure is on manufacturers and electronics recyclers to prove that they can dismantle, recycle and dispose of electronics in a responsible way.


It is precisely because of this scrutiny that Noranda Recycling Inc. recently sought ISO 14001 environmental certification for its East Providence, R.I., recovery facility; it received certification in January. The San Jose, Calif.-based company is one of the largest electronics recyclers in the world, so maintaining an environmentally sound operation is critical. “The plan is to have all five of Noranda's recycling facilities certified this year,” says Steve Skurnac, Noranda Recycling's president. “It's important for us because our customers look at ISO certification as a validation of the systems we have in place. It's an international standard, so it sells well in Europe and Asia. Having the certification speeds up the process of customer evaluation.”


Noranda's Rhode Island facility, which employs 30 people and processes about 5,500 to 7,500 tons per year of e-scrap, is just one aspect of the multifaceted company. After a corporate reorganization in 2003, Noranda Recycling says it is ready to handle the onslaught of electronics entering the waste stream every day.


E-Waste in Overdrive


According to the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 2 million tons of electronic waste are buried in landfills each year. By 2005, the agency predicts that nearly 250 million computers will become obsolete and require disposal. Yet in 2001, only 11 percent of personal computers retired in the United States were recycled. Computers are just the most obvious e-waste culprit; hand-held devices, cell phones and other small electronics also are piling up. In the next year, the EPA estimates that 130 million mobile phones will be discarded.


More than half of all end-of-life electronics are shipped to Asia, where environmental and technological capabilities to recycle them are limited. In February 2003, the European Commission published the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, placing financial responsibility for recycling end-of-life electronics on manufacturers. Stateside corporate responsibility programs are on the rise as well, with several computer and electronics manufacturers establishing take-back and recycling programs.


To meet the growing demand for electronics recycling, Toronto-based Noranda Inc. — an international mining and metals company — announced last summer that it had reorganized its U.S.-based recycling operations into one company, called Noranda Recycling. The new company brings together three facilities in San Jose and Roseville, Calif., and Lavergne, Tenn., that had previously been operated by Micro Metallics Corp., as well as the East Providence facility, which had been operated by Noranda Sampling Inc. The company also opened an electronics recycling facility in Brampton, Ontario, last year.


Together, the five facilities make Noranda Recycling one of the largest processors of precious metal-bearing electronic materials in North America. The new company employs about 200 people and processes between 75,000 and 170,000 tons of recyclable raw materials each year.
“Last summer, we realized that we were getting some critical mass,” Skurnac says. “We were going to have five different sites operating, so we said, ‘Let's have a new company in the states, to give our Noranda name much more branding’ … Now it's much clearer and allows us to treat all five facilities as one operation. From a business perspective, we're all in this together.”
Although they are managed under one umbrella, Noranda Recycling's five facilities have different missions. The San Jose and East Providence facilities focus on copper and precious metal recovery from electronics, telecommunications, automotive, refining and metal fabrication industries. The Brampton, Roseville and Lavergne facilities focus on end-of-life electronics recycling through partnerships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard (HP). Noranda's newest facility in Brampton recovers a typical variety of materials — hardware, CD-ROMs, tape drives, disk drives, CD writers, modems and circuit boards.


“The two plants on the extreme coasts, the San Jose facility and the old Noranda Sampling facility [in Rhode Island], are geared around metal-bearing electronics recovery,” Skurnac explains. “If you sent them material, there's a 99 percent chance we're going to pay you for the metal contained in that material. If you send material to Roseville or Nashville or Brampton, you will be paying us to take the material.”


Playing it Safe


Noranda's operation is centered on its electronics “take-back” partnerships with HP and other manufacturers, which began at the Roseville facility in the mid-1990s. In July 2002, HP built on this relationship by launching a take-back service for Canadians to recycle unwanted computers and equipment from any manufacturer. The service includes pickup, transportation, evaluation for reuse or donation, and recycling for products ranging from printers to scanners. Noranda then provides HP and other OEMs with disassembly, product testing and metal recovery services at its Tennessee facility.


Other manufacturers may be as for ward-thinking as HP, but not as forthcoming. “We do provide a similar service to other OEMs,” Skurnac says. “It's similar in that the manufacturers manage the internal program, then we take over when it comes time to handling the material. So it's a very close relationship we have to those groups. They want to do the right thing, but not bring a lot of scrutiny to themselves.”


In 2003, the San Jose-based Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, an electronics watchdog organization, and the Computer TakeBack Campaign, a similarly minded coalition, released a report that examined HP's partnership with Noranda and the Roseville facility, comparing it with a similar deal between Austin, Texas-based Dell Inc., and Washington, D.C.-based UNICOR. The report examined the partnerships based on three criteria: Transparency and accountability to the public; general compliance with occupational health and safety standards; and use of best recycling practices and their potential for wide adoption by the private sector.
The report praised the Noranda facility for allowing the coalition's industrial hygienist to inspect the facility freely and speak informally with employees. Noranda also had developed efficient warehousing systems that electronically tracked materials throughout the recycling process. Disassembly workstations were well-lit, ergonomically designed and computerized, with each workbench equipped with a hand-held device to scan and retrieve information about the equipment to be salvaged, the report stated.


Safety also was paramount in the Roseville facility, according to the report. Chairs and tabletops could be adjusted for worker comfort, and motorized pallet jackets and forklifts were used to avoid worker injury. Workers were encouraged to provide feedback on product design and to suggest alternative tools to improve safety and efficiency. Additionally, brooms were removed from the facility and replaced with vacuum cleaners to control dust, which can contain lead, flame retardants and other toxins from computer dismantling and shredding operations.
The report concluded that the Noranda facility “demonstrated characteristics that other electronic waste managers and policy decision makers might emulate as they begin to develop recycling programs.”


These characteristics include:


Eliminating tools, such as hammers, that cause injury and health hazards;
Developing efficient warehousing systems that electronically track materials through the recycling process;


Installing mechanized systems, such as crushers, that reduce worker exposure to toxics;
Developing work stations designed to reduce ergonomic hazards;


Developing a database that allows workers to access information on hazardous materials; and
Providing non-management representation on the company's health and safety committee.


“It was a good experience to visit a work site where there appears to be a significant investment in occupational and environmental health and safety,” the lead investigator wrote.


Minding the Market


In the United States, electronics “recyclers” have been widely criticized for sending obsolete high-tech trash to Asia, where unsafe dismantling systems pose threats to Asian workers and the environment. “There are two key things that pop up in this business,” Skurnac says. “One relates to recycling operators and this whole notion of environmentally sound management of the equipment. We make the point that, if you call yourself an electronics recycler, make sure that you are not just brokering material to destinations unknown. And if you're a company who's disposing of the material, make sure you know where it's going. Any reputable recycling company can give you that information.”


In the meantime, Noranda and other recyclers are facing new electronics legislation. Dozens of states have passed or are considering bills to legislate the disposal and recycling of electronic waste. Some states have instituted landfill bans on certain electronics or have created fees to support funds for electronics recycling. Congress is considering national electronics legislation and in March, the EPA announced a pilot project to measure the economic impacts of environmentally sound electronics management. “If you're going to be in electronics recycling,” Skurnac says, “you better be willing to be involved in public policy.”


In the midst of this highly charged and increasingly regulated sector, North American recyclers are still dealing with the widespread export of scrap to China. “The commodity metal markets have improved, but that has less of an impact on our business than people think,” Skurnac says. “We're buying raw material. So if the price of gold goes up, the customer expects to be paid more. What it might do is drive material to us that wasn't worth recycling before. You might make the argument that there's more material in the marketplace. But with China buying every bit of scrap material, it hasn't made it easier for Noranda or anyone to source raw material.”
In fact, Noranda was able to open its Brampton facility in part because another electronics recycler could not compete in a difficult marketplace. “We basically stepped in and bought all of their equipment, and we went out and acquired a brand new building,” Skurnac says. Today, he reports that volumes in Canada are substantially higher than the company originally had anticipated.


Skurnac is confident that the electronics recycling business will grow. New legislation in Europe and elsewhere is likely to send more materials to Noranda's facilities, which could easily accept increased feedstock, he says. “Hopefully, a year from now we'll have more plants or the ones we have will be so busy we won't know what to do with ourselves. We think there are market opportunities for growth, and we plan to be a part of that.”


Kim A. O'Connell is a contributing editor based in Arlington, Va.


WasteExpo Watch


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Take Action List

Used electronic devices, known as e-waste, are increasingly becoming a larger part of our waste. Fortunately, there are a number of options available to those who want to recycle their old electronic items.

To address the increasing amount of e-waste, many state and local governments, electronics manufacturers, and non-profit organizations have created comprehensive recycling programs. Several states, including California, Maine, Maryland, Texas and Washington, have even enacted laws requiring the collection of certain electronics.

E-waste recycling options vary across the country. So, the first step to determine what options are available in your area is to review information about your local recycling program. This information is available on Earth 911 (using the recycling locator database at the top of this page), some local government websites and the following websites:

E.P.A. Product Stewartship
National Recycling Coalition
E Recycling Central (includes a list of questions to ask recyclers)
Basel Action Network
Computer Take Back Campaign

In addition to “traditional” recycling programs, some electronics manufacturers and retailers also offer e-waste recycling. Many manufacturer-sponsored programs will accept and process their brand for free. Some accept other brands for a small fee.

After determining what options are available, it is important to determine whether a recycler is operating under strict environmental controls and high worker safety protections. A few general questions to ask include:

Is the recycler certified (such as an ISO 14001 environmental management certification) and does it follow a set of industry recognized guidelines?

Does the recycler actually recycle most of the e-waste materials collected (It is best if the company can recycle 90 percent or more of the materials)?

Does the recycler have written procedures for removing and disposing of mercury lamps in electronic products? Many manufacturer and government sponsored programs have extensive online information detailing the way in which recycling is handled.

In addition to choosing a recycler, it is also important to prepare your e-waste for recycling. For computer recycling, one important concern is to erase all data from the computer before sending it off for recycling.

However, this should be a factor regardless of what one does with an old computer because electronic data can be retrieved from hard drives. There are many options (such as software) to ensure that the data is permanently erased.

In fact, many recycling firms will scrub the hard drive and certify that all data has been erased. Before sending your computer to a recycler, check to verify that this option is available.
Manufacturer Specific Programs

Apple
Dell
Hewlett-Packard
Acer
Toshiba Trade-In and Recycling Program
Gateway
Lenovo/IBM (will also accept other e-waste of other computer manufacturers)
Sony
Panasonic
Epson

Retailer Programs

Circuit City (Easy-trade in program)
Best Buy
Staples (accepts computers, monitors, laptops, and desktop printers, faxes and all-in-ones)
EPA Plug-In Partners (lists manufacturers, retailers and service providers that offer recycling of e-waste)

Donation

EPA–lists options for donating or recycling e-waste
Techsoup–lists non-profit organizations and recyclers of e-waste
Goodwill (some locations accept computers)–website includes tips on how to donate computers

Cell Phone Recycling/Donation

Motorola (accepts all brands for free)
Nokia (accepts all brands for free)
Call to Recycle
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (donation of cell phones)
Call to Protect
Verizon Wireless (accepts phones at Verizon stores)
AT&T Wireless (accepts phones at AT&T stores)
T-Mobile Wireless (accepts phones in stores and by mail)
Sprint Wireless (accepts phones in stores and by mail; recycling proceeds go to charity)

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles

http://www.ewastedisposal.net