E-Scrap Recycling, a Guide to Vendor Selection Economic, Environmental and Ethical Considerations Robin Ingenthron American Retroworks Inc. Middlebury, Vermont www.retroworks.com An NRC Training Program sponsored by Dell Inc.
Session Topics: • Why Hold This Event? • 2) What about Exports? • Recycling 101: Understanding your supply and your vendor’s demand • 4) Rules of Thumb for selecting recycling vendors
World Demand for Copper, Gold, Aluminum, Lead, Plastic and Steel expands Daily. The worst recycling is environmentally better than the best mining. One day events are “a date, not a marriage”. Establish your collections and you can leverage vendor practices, dictate higher standards. The longer monitors and computers are stored, the less social (digital divide) and economic value they have Reuse markets for CRTs are strong today, but in 2 years they may dive. Residents don’t stop generating electronic waste while advocates ponder policy. Why Hold This Event?
E-Scrap is 300% richer in copper and other metals than mined ore • Recycling produces a fraction of the pollution from mining. Hard rock mining produces 45% of all toxics produced by all USA industries. • Gorilla and orangutan extinction is arguably driven by electrics metal mining. • USGS – At 1990 rate of consumption, copper reserves will be exhausted this century: Ocean mining will be the primary source of copper in our lifetimes. • USA Model? 95% from federal lands, $5/acre, 14/15 largest Superfund sites
USA Mercury Emissions by Industry(Rank #1-#7) Source: http://www.epa.gov/region09/toxic/tri/report/01/mercury.pdf
What About Exports? It’s better to meet demand than not to. That said, sleazy exports threaten recycling, and are worse than not recycling at all. REALITY: If USA exports everything, we send 1/3 reusables, 1/3 recyclables, and 1/3 Toxics Along for the Ride. REALITY: if USA exports nothing, we destroy reuseables (and they cannot afford new); they mine to replace the recycled metals, and mining produces even more toxic harm than recycling. SOLUTION: Setting a Higher Standard. USA processing, limited exports (tested equipment, copper scrap), simple tests (like CRT Glass Test); market development to promote best practices; (funded) state processing contracts with restrictions and incentives; etc.
Q: Why should we know the basics behind international demand? A: You’ll be asked several times a week, “Do you export this stuff?”
Understanding Export Forces to Asia • Reuse Forces • 1. High tolerance/demand for used • 2. “Free” software • Cheap parts • Good, cheap tech. labor • Recycling Forces • 1. Metal demand • 2. Balance of Trade • Cheap labor • Cheap env. Laws Giant Sucking Sound Growth in Chinese demand for copper (ore and scrap): 20% per year 1999-2002
The Good and the Ugly Monitor Refurbishing Factory Copper extracted by hand
THE BAD: Legitimate USA recyclers must be able to show where the non-repairable lead goes. Toxics Along For the Ride will hold recycling back
Recycling 101: Understanding Basics 1) What you have 2) What the vendor does to it 3) Considerations for evaluating bids (ie demand) from multiple recycling vendors
What you have 1) Pristine takeouts for auction, clean scrap - you can deal with anyone directly 2) Junk - you should insist on domestic processing 3) “I dunno”…- you should deal with USA companies with capacity to separate, process, market, document This is always the one-day event
Can it be reused? 5% material = 50% of income - e.g. 17” monitor tested working, $30 2) Can it be repaired? 15% material = 30% of income - e.g. white box PCs, repairable monitors, $5 each Can it be recycled? 75% of material = 20% of income lead, gold, copper, aluminum, steel, plastic, pennies per pound. Does not cover labor or processing cost. Disposed (incl. contaminants)? 5% material = LOSS - Wood debris, cable casings All Income combined = 1/3 of collection and operating cost What the vendor does to it $$$? $? $ ? ? As the dollars get smaller, the volume gets bigger…
4 Simple Due Diligence Tests Ideally, your state or cooperative marketing organization has already established a statewide contract and performed due diligence and vendor selection. If not, there are limits to the amount of information you can justify collecting (or understanding) for a One Day Event. • LEADED GLASS recycling records • GOLD BEARING SCRAP markets • SAMPLE EXPORT manifests • EMPLOYEES PER TON
1. CRT Lead Glass Test – Lead CRT glass is the most expensive item to recycle domestically, and the biggest source of toxics. • Ask vendor these 2 questions: • “How many tons of leaded glass did you send to lead smelters or glass furnaces last year?” • - (divide by) “How many total tons of electronics did you collect last year?” • (Ask for the lead glass end market to verify the shipments.) After reuse, lead glass is 42% of material. Reuse will lower this figure, but not EVERYTHING can be reused.
Printed Circuit Board (PCB) Gold Test – • Not every PC can be refurbished. When sold for metal content, most of the pollution comes from extracting the gold circuit boards. Ask your vendor to provide documentation of markets for printed circuit board recycling. If there is no documentation, ask whether they are shipping computers intact to foreign markets. Asia is the #1 consumer of gold PER CAPITA BAN: chinese circuit board / gold recycler
3. Truthful Manifest Test - Ask for RECENT shipping papers (sensitive market info can be blocked out). Legitimate bill of lading shows make/model/voltage/COO/condition. “40,000 lbs. scrap metal” “1030 pcs. Tested Working Monitors 95-99”
4. Employment / Capacity Test How many pounds per 5 employees? Limited Demanufacturing and repair 1M 3M Automated shredding 10M Whole-lotta Wholesaling going on… Average is somewhere around five employees per million pounds of electronics. If it’s outsourced, insist on end market documentation!!
mineralpolicy.org mpi.org.au USGS.gov moles.org ban.org copper.org www.antigraymarket.org these and other links www.retroworks.com