The economy has taken considerable twists and turns since the Recycling Today Media Group published its inaugural list of the 20 Largest Electronics Recyclers in North America in the July/August 2008 edition of SDB and in the July 2008 issue of Recycling Today, a sister publication of SDB.
However, the continuation of mandatory state electronics recycling systems, the introduction of new ones and the spread of manufacturer and retail take-back systems have kept material flowing into electronics recycling plants, even in the slowest months of 2009.
Click to view the largest electronics recyclers in North America.
MOVING ON UP
With the fate of obsolete electronics having received considerable attention from environmental activists, major media outlets and elected officials, the volume of electronics to be recycled has remained relatively steady throughout the recession.
Commodity markets have wavered, but the growing economies of Asia have continued to consume scrap materials, including the metals and plastics commonly found in office technology, household entertainment and telecommunications products.
The steadiness in supply and demand has allowed many electronics recyclers to continue investing in new equipment and new facilities and to enter long-term agreements to serve retailers, manufacturers, corporations and government agencies that generate electronic scrap.
Among those who have invested in new shredding plants is Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), Fresno, Calif.,which checks in at No. 2 on this year’s list.
John Shegerian, the CEO of ERI, says his company continues to pursue volume growth in 2010. “In the U.S., we want to grow to have more shredder locations and more overall locations,” he says.
Part of what drives that decision, says Shegerian, is to be in a better position in the commodities trading arena. “From the commodities aspect, bigger is better,” he says. “It gets you more visibility and it gets you more credibility with the smelters.”
On the material supply side, Shegerian also touts the advantages of scale. “You have to be where your clients are in terms of geography,” he says.
A FULL MENU
In addition to geographic range, offering a range of services is a common denominator among the largest electronics recycling companies.
Most of the companies on the list offer refurbishing, component remarketing, data destruction and shredding services as a way to serve customers who insist on complete destruction as well as those who prefer maximum asset recovery value.
FAR FROM SETTLED
As the larger electronics recycling firms have enjoyed growth from 2008 to 2010, one of the management tasks in front of company leaders has concerned certification.
As spelled out in the feature “Certification Maze” in the April 2010 issue of Recycling Today, a combination of alliances and competing certification systems for electronics recyclers has evolved in the past several years. (This feature can be accessed at www.recyclingtoday.com/electronics-recycling-series-april-feature-2010.aspx.)
Groups courting electronics recyclers include the Basel Action Network (BAN), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) and the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID).
NAID’s certification concerns procedures to protect and destroy confidential data contained within obsolete electronics as they make their way through a chain of custody.
BAN’s e-Stewards certification program has its origins in requiring accountability for the handling of toxic materials. Certified companies cannot ship toxic materials from developed to developing countries for recycling or for disposal.
The EPA has historically avoided certification programs, but its R2 (Responsible Recycling) program allows outside audits by accredited certification bodies. These auditors report their findings to the American National Standards Institute-American Society of Quality National Accreditation Board (ANSI-ASQ-ANAB).
ISRI’s RIOS (Recycling Industry Operating Standards) can be obtained jointly with the R2 standards. ISRI bills RIOS as a quality, environmental, health and safety (QEH&S) management system to help recyclers manage processes and procedures. It pairs well with the R2 certification that addresses downstream material shipping requirements, according to ISRI.
Electronics recycling company leaders have plenty of decisions ahead as they determine which certification system best suits their business model or company goals.
The authors are editor-in-chief and editor of SDB magazine. A previous version of this list appeared in the June issue of Recycling Today magazine, a sister publication of SDB.