Here’s how our process works and the e-waste business in simple terms:
Most customers contact us via email/phone and schedule a pick-up. Typically it takes us a week to get to them, in the busier times up to 2 weeks depending on the customers location and how much they have to recycle. Sometimes we use our van, sometimes a large straight truck.
Some customers will drop material off here but for those who don’t here’s what happens: we arrive, go to where the material is located on the premise and pack it up in rolling bins and wheel it out to the vehicle. we keep it as segregated as possible and when we get back to our facility we sort and weigh everything according to the line item, ie; computers, printers, monitors, peripherals and about 50 other categories. Each line item has a specific cost which is why it’s important to receive everything from each customer prior to sending an invoice.
We dismantle all pc’s/servers, networking equipment, modems, and anything else that has a higher value for precious metal recovery: gold, silver, platinum, palladium, and many others. That higher grade material is then brought to a metal recovery business where we get paid on actual results. We also dismantle some printers, test and lab equipment and most other high-value products which is a list that could virtually go on forever. We categorize different types of circuit boards (any given time we probably have 20-25 “grades” of boards varying in value from $.20/lb to $40/lb., the most common range is $1.50-$7.50/lb. Any given item can have anywhere from 6-7 different components to 18-20+ components which include: power supplies, with and without wire (server vs. PC), aluminum and/or copper heat sinks, fans, plastic, metal, RAM and CPU’s, and various other commodity, or in newer items, re-sale products. All in which have their own price, process of recycle/reuse, and buyers. The buyers are plentiful, everyone wants our material, but at this point I’ve worked with the same buyers since I’ve been in the business and the furthest anything goes is Massachusetts, the majority is handled here in NH through buyers that have all the proper ISO and E-Steward Certifications and provide Certificates of Destruction and Recycling. These larger buyers/processors depend on smaller companies to “feed” them material.
Some items we pay for to have processed. Items like printers, monitors with leaded or broken glass, certain types of batteries, plastics and some misc. peripherals. The value is not there currently with the commodities.
Some items are brought to various partners for shredding and further processing. Large shredders are half a million dollar plus machines, require huge floor space, and are very advanced to capture (by separation) a variety of items that most electronics have. From home appliances like blenders and vacuums, to stand alone data centers that once cost their previous owners hundreds of thousands of dollars, now are e-waste. The products inside most, if not all electronics are comprised of: circuit boards, metal, plastic, and wire. Items that get brought for shredding also have a value, but that value is based completely on the commodities market which is extremely volatile. I’ve now been in the business long enough (2006) to see the market come full circle. When I first got into the business we charged every customer for every pound received. 5-6 years ago the market was very high and we started offering credit for more valuable products and only charging for the items with a cost to us. Now the metals market has been down for the past 4 years and we are back to charging for everything, mostly.
The exact process is this:
1 – collect the material
2 – separate all material per line item and category
3 – dismantle all products that have the most value here onsite
4 – pack alike materials together we do not dismantle and ship to one of our partners for further processing and/or shredding
5 – repeat