End-of-life electronics are valuable resources that should be recovered whenever possible. Benefits of recycling electronics products include diverting hazardous waste from disposal to landfill, secure hardware and data destruction, and corporate demonstration of extended producer responsibility. With several companies now offering an increasing array of electronics recycling services, old computers, printers, fax machines, copiers, cell phones, and main frames are no longer called a “waste.”
One such company is EPR [Electronic Product Recovery] Services Inc. of Mississauga, Ontario. EPR offers a state of the art recycling system for virtually all electronics products. Through shredding and granulation, whole equipment is reduced to chips. The chips are then separated — using a variety of magnetic, repulsive field, density and conductive separation techniques — into clean streams of base materials.
Steel, aluminum, plastics, zinc, brass, and copper are sorted and collected in individual bins, which are then shipped to smelters and furnaces to become new products. For example, steel is sold to integrated steel mills and mini-mills and aluminum is sold to secondary remelt furnace operators. Copper and trace precious metals (in some electronic equipment) are recovered at an off-site smelter. Computer monitors are recycled by EPR and the cathode ray tubes, which contain lead, are destroyed at a smelter. Package materials — including, cardboard, inside packaging materials, shrink-wrap, paper, and wood — are also recycled.
Recycling the metal streams is a very straightforward process but recycling plastics can be challenging. EPR is working with several companies to develop new products using plastic. For example, one such company is investigating blending the plastics with granulated rubber from tires to develop a multi-use brick. EPR is also developing systems to separate and/or blend certain polymers and resins to add value to recovered products.
A unique feature of this recovery system is that it captures dusts, and allows even this material to be turned into a recyclable product. The EPR process — which does not use water, chemicals or heat and does not have any outside emissions — takes place in a 50,000 square-foot facility.
While the system operates at a very high throughput capacity (4,000-7,000 lbs./hour), it is totally automated. The operations manager can view and adjust all the procedures and process steps with computer controls and cameras set up within the system. EPR does remove glass, toner cartridges, oil, large batteries, large capacitors, cathode ray tubes, and other materials prior to processing. These items are recycled or destroyed by other specialty recycling companies.
The company — which does not allow for the resale or reuse of any electronic equipment or components received — issue certificates of secure destruction and recycling. Current clients include, many urban municipalities, education centres, hospitals and major corporations in Canada and the U.S.
Sid Morris is director of corporate services of EPR Services Inc., based in Mississsauga, Ontario.