Electronics products are a growing source of waste in landfills in Canada and across the globe. Environment Canada reports that in 1999 Canadians disposed of approximately 34,000 tonnes of information technology equipment, recycled 15,592 tonnes, sent 24,507 tonnes for reuse, and put 6,128 tonnes into storage.
Increasingly, the public and private sectors are realizing that end-of-lifecycle electronics are valuable resources that should be recycled and recovered. The environmental and economic benefits include diverting waste (some of it toxic) from disposal to landfill, properly destroying confidential data, and helping clients demonstrate producer responsibility.
One leading recycling and recovery company is Cable Recycling Inc. based in Barrie, Ontario. Strategically located near a major highway, a railway and airport, the company boasts a state-of-the-art recycling and recovery operation –one of the largest in North America — for telecommunications electronics andcable (power and communication), as well as office equipment electronics.
Says Alfred Hambsch, president and founder of Cable Recycling,” We believe that recycling electronic waste is the responsible alternative.”
Mr. Hambsch says his staff practices what it preaches. “After materials recovery and recycling at our facility, only four per cent of waste goes to landfill.”
The company currently serves both the Canadian and U.S. metal manufacturing industries as well as international communications, power and cable companies. Current clients include Bell Canada, Bell Atlantic/Verizon, BellMobility, Ameritech, Lucent, Pitney Bowes, Telebec, and Niagara-Mohawk Power.
Combined with its U.S. partner TripleM, the Cable Recycling network of companies, which started with six employees in 1991, is now over 400 employees strong with annual sales of over $600-million.
“Only 15 per cent of electronics generated in the U.S. is currently being recycled,” says Mr. Hambsch. “With the use of high-tech electronics expected to skyrocket worldwide, I expect we’ll be very busy over the coming years.”
The company, which has ISO 9001 and 14001 certification, provides transport through various logistics companies to its 450,000 sq. foot building. Combined sorting and warehousing services are provided at an indoor 175,000square foot facility with five modern loading docks.
The system — which can shred all types of circuit boards, chop allcables and dismantle remaining ferrous and non-ferrous electronic components –consists of three sorting and chopping lines, a Mosey baler (250 horsepower), a ShredTech shredder (400 hp), and de-reeling areas equipped with hydraulic cablecutters and various shears. A specialized Redomo chopping line is used to processpaper-covered copper conductors.
Using an “air shaker” table and the sophisticated Hamos RecyclingTechnix system for electro-static separation, equipment granules are separated into clean streams of base materials.
While the system operates at a very high throughput capacity — up to 2-million kilograms (about 4.5-million lbs.) per month — it is mostly automated and only requires two employees per line.
Over 30 classes of materials, including copper, steel, aluminum, plastics, zinc, and brass are sorted for various clients into individual bins, bags or boxes, depending on the client’s preference.
Cable Recycling resells selected materials at optimum prices.
Copper and precious metals are sold to various companies in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Steel is sent to nearby integrated steel mills including Stelco and Dofasco. Precious metals recovered from circuit boards are sold to refineries in Belgium, the U.S. and the U.K. The lead recovered from power cables goes to a smelteringcompany in Canada. Plastic is sent to various companies for reprocessing intoproducts such as plastic wood.
Ralf Hambsch, vice president of trading (and Alfred’s son) says that thanks to its various established networks and proven technologies, the company can negotiate competitive prices.
“Of course, rates depend on the type of material being processed andrecovered,” says Mr. Hambsch. “We follow the rates of the U.S. Comex market index as well as the London Metal Exchange to provide real-time value.”
The company has plans to fine tune its recovery services with a new precious metals assessing lab, which will further ensure maximum values are obtained, as well as extend its roster of materials recycled to include household electronics products.
Cable Recycling maintains necessary certificates of approval and generator registrations for waste management systems processing and transfers, liquid waste storage, as well as environmental impairment liability insurance.
Special environmental safeguards include careful removal of glass, toner cartridges, oil, large batteries and capacitors, cathode ray tubes and otherhazardous materials prior to processing. A hazardous waste specialist properly packages and arranges for proper transportation and disposal. Materials handling staff is properly outfitted in personal protective gear including, glasses, gloves, and breathing apparatus (as needed).
In addition, Cable Recycling does not allow for the resale or reuse of any confidential components received and issues certificates of secure destruction and recycling in conjunction with digital photos.