Recycling Your Electronics [AUDIO]
MP3 players, laptops, tablets, smart phones these are the gifts that many people probably received this holiday season. However as you enjoy the newest and coolest piece of tech, the question becomes what is going to happen for your unwanted or outdated electronics.Throwing them out in the regular trash is out of the question since many gadgets contain batteries or other components which are considered toxic or hazardous, which means that all of the devices need to be recycled. This poses a problem for many municipalities and counties since many of them struggle to meet with current demand for electronic recycling days.
To help assist towns and cities with getting rid of their unwanted gizmos, Middlesex County based Sims Recycling Solutions is a rare example of a company that is thriving in a very uncertain market. The company's flagship is located in Edison, however they have managed to expand worldwide and provide services for recycling specifically electronics.
Steven Skurnac is the president of Sims, he says several years ago the company saw legislation in Europe start classifying many of the components in electronics as those that need to be specially recycled. Anticipating similar laws would come over to the US they focused their energy creating a system for people to dispose of their unused gizmos to be disposed of safely.
"Most jurisdiction in the developed world treat electronic scrap as some kind of special waste, some jurisdictions will go as far as to call it a hazardous waste. Many simply refer to it as a special waste designation that needs special handling. "
In the time since the company has been incredibly successful and managed to expand in foreign markets while many competitors have not been able to gain the same kind of ground, even though the demand is being increasingly larger. Skurnac says there have been several factors which allowed Sims to flourish while many others have languished.
Specifically he notes that the electronics recycling industry started as an offshoot of the traditional scrap metal industry, of which Sims was already established. The company's prior experience in the industry allowed them to acquire several smaller companies and push the focus onto electronic recycling efforts.
However it's more than the companies prior size that allowed them to continue expand in the burgeoning industry. Skurnac explains that one of the things that makes electronics recycling so difficult is that while many of the metals in newer electronics are valuable and worthwhile to recycle, it's the older "tube" style computer monitors which are still so common in people's garage but are very expensive to collect.
"Those units are heavy, they're very very difficult to transport around and unfortunately they do cost quite a bit to recycle because the glass inside the picture tube has a substantial amount of lead content in it."
Along with the older model monitors, out of date batteries are also difficult to dispose of. "There's quite a generation of batteries separation during the recycling process then typically they're sent to companies for the metal recover." Says Skurnac.
With a constant flow of new chemicals and technologies to account flow Skurnac says "that's why is some counties and cities it's been difficult to manage this flow of materials."
The advantage Sims has been able to have is their ability to capatilize on their already large size going into the game. Skurnac notes that the company is able to strike arrangement with manufacturers which streamlines the process of taking back things like batteries and sharing some of the cost burden of recycling.
Furthermore he has noted that the as consumers become more conscious of the dangers chemicals from their electronics, the manufacturers have been able to respond.
"We spend a lot of time working with the actual manufacturers themselves and to their credit they have a lot of design and engineering work that's been done on design for recycling. Ten years ago they might have had fifty to a hundred different kinds of plastic resins in a particular product they produce. Now most of them have taken it down to single digits."
So what advice does Skurnac have for others trying to get success in a tough economic climate? Listen to the customers.
Skurnac says "people are more aware of potential harm to the environment. Consumers want to know that products aren't just disposable and tossed into a landfill." He notes that the business model is one where every party has an input to make things better.
"Everybody has a shared part in the actual business plan, the manufacturers who put the material out in the marketplace are now stepping up and sharing some of the responsibility of the cost and collecting of recycling."