Solid Waste & Recycling


Hungry for Circuit Boards

The first thing that strikes you upon approaching the CRI/GEEP plant in Barrie, Ontario is its size. The overall facility is 450,000 square feet, located on 29 acres with a rail spur and access to Ont...

The first thing that strikes you upon approaching the CRI/GEEP plant in Barrie, Ontario is its size. The overall facility is 450,000 square feet, located on 29 acres with a rail spur and access to Ontario’s busy Highway 400. The enormous building also houses the operations of parent company Barrie Metals (a recycler of ferrous and non-ferrous scrap founded in 1984) as well as other associated companies. There’s Raytube Recycling, for instance, which recycles old TV and computer CRTs, and MaSer Corp, which employs the latest in centrifuge technology. There’s Automatic Steel which sells steel (both primary and secondary) in addition to tools, hardware, and metals.

My tour included these areas of the plant, but the focus was CRI/GEEP’s operation. My host, Account Manager George Craine, pointed out that the company reclaimed roughly half the building from a prior tenant last year for the new and rapidly expanding operation, which formally opened at the start of 2005.

The acronym CRI/GEEP stands for Cable Recycling Inc. — Barrie Metals’ venture into the fast-growing electronics waste recycling market in Canada — and the U.S. subsidiary which operates as Global Electric Electronics Processing. A 108,000-square-foot plant in Durham, North Carolina captures valuable metals from telecommunications equipment, computers, cell phones and other circuit board equipment. CRI/GEEP upgrades, remarkets, processes and recycles used electronic equipment. Services also include warehousing, logistics and distribution. CRI/GEEP’s commitment to customer satisfaction required that their US location be expanded to include e-waste processing equipment similar to Canada.

The system

Material entering the plant’s loading docks is assessed in a staging area for its resale and refurbishment potential, reuse being a preferred option where possible. In some cases companies prefer that their material be sent directly to the shredder for security and confidentiality reasons. On customer approval, select components are harvested for resale in areas segregated by company brand. Monitors and television CRT units are handled by Raytube Recycling where special equipment recycles leaded glass safely, and the plastic housing of computers are taken off. The remaining materials (which include circuit boards, keyboards and other peripherals, etc.) are sent to the shredder for recycling.

The main value proposition offered by the CRI/GEEP is to achieve total closed-loop recycling by employing what it calls the “5R” hierarchy (reduce, reuse, refurbish, remarket and recycle), extracting all commodities from the e-waste stream in an environmentally friendly way with minimal landfill. A sophisticated equipment array (see photos) shreds and chops the material; this is followed by mechanical, magnetic and centrifugal separation processes. The company is currently processing up to 15 million pounds of metals and e-waste a month, with further capacity available.

The system delaminates circuit boards so that all valuable secondary commodities (such as ferrous scrap metal, nonferrous metals and plastics) are clean and ready for sale to end users, smelters and refiners internationally.

As I walked past the large humming machines and busy workers and ran my hand through the steady stream of sparkling copper, ferrous metal, aluminum and plastic granules pouring into bins at the end of the line, it occurred to me that I was walking through a facility that manufactures treasure. Like an above-ground mine, the equipment literally spews vast amounts of valuable metal and plastics that until recently (unthinkably!) used to simply be tossed in a landfill.

“It’s a good thing for us that our company founder, President & CEO Alfred Hambsch is a millwright,” says Craine. “He’s constantly experimenting with the equipment to find out what it does best. We’re making improvements all the time.”

“CRI/GEEP is currently exploring the latest global technology in which hydrocarbon-based wastes can be converted into diesel fuel,” he adds.

Process efficiency is an important factor in the partnership of customer and service provider, and so is the other crucial part of the operation: the sale of materials, supervised by Alfred’s son Ralf Hambsch, VP of Trading. Fees for obsolete equipment delivered to the plant are determined in part via costs and returns on saleable commodities. Clients are charged for the recycling service but receive rebates on the metals sold against commodities traded on indexes such as Comex (Commodity Exchange, USA) and the LME (London Metal Exchange, U.K.).

“We have an ‘open book’ policy here,” says Craine, meaning that customers participate in (and can freely view) the resale value of their recycled commodities.

Guy Crittenden is editor of this magazine.

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