Archive for August, 2009

If you have a room full of old, unused computers, telephones, servers, or other consumer electronics, then you have what we call a computer cemetery.  You know how the process starts. You place a few non-working or out-of-date machines in the corner of an unused room or closet, and the next thing you know, your extra space has turned into the resting place of countless electronics.

Organizations stock pile computers because they either can’t bear to let go of machines they’ll likely never use again or they worry about the safety of proprietary information hidden in the recesses of hard drives. While the reasons are understandable, valuable storage space, rapidly depreciating resale value, and the drag on ROI caused by unproductive assets should prompt businesses to divest themselves of computer cemeteries.

But what is the final resting place of your machines—the actual e-waste graveyard? Where does your recycling company send your scrap?

E-recyclers vary greatly due to a lack of regulation. According to the EPA, 82% of US e-waste is land filled and at least half of it ends up exported to countries such as China, Nigeria, and India, desperately lacking the necessary infrastructure to safely dispose of your toxic electronics.

Your computer monitor, for example, is made up of lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium, barium, and PVCs—all toxic ingredients whose increased exposure is known to cause cancer, brain damage, and kidney problems, among other serious medical and environmental issues.

Although a certificate of disposal from an e-recycler is reassuring, it means very little. The US does not ban the export of e-waste, and too often “recycled” materials are shipped to unfit and negligent processors, or even directly to landfills.

Take action today and call in a responsible e-recycler that provides:
–          Secure data destruction – hard drive shredding and data erasure compliant with Department of Defense standards
–          A downstream vendor report specifically identifying how and where product is finally processed
–           Accurate reporting of your machine’s recovered value
–          Access to their processing facility – a first hand look into their processing methods

Remember, choosing a responsible e-waste recycling company is crucial. After all, it is your company’s image—and information—on the line.

As appeared in the August issue of IREM Houston’s IREM Insight Newsletter. (Download PDF here)


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Denia Mejia, Clive Hess, and I visited AI Innovative for a tour of their impressive operation. As one of the largest plastics recyclers (but they do much more!) in North America, they had much to teach us about recycling.

Here are a few things I picked up:

  • Foam is expensive to transport. To reduce shipping costs, AI Innovative sells foam compressing machines that reduce foam size atleast 60 to 1.
  • This foam becomes pelletized and can be reused in dark products, such as trash bags and composite railroad ties.
  • Your colored plastics are often separated in clear and colors. The clear plastic is the easiest to resell as clear flakes. These become salad boxes, more plastic bottles, but most of all, they go into carpet!
  • “Natural in color” is used to describe the fuzzy plastic used in milk jugs. This milk jug plastic, however, cannot be put back into milk jugs. Why? Contamination!
  • Dark colors are processed and reused in dark bottles such as corrugated pipe and oil bottles.
  • Outlets for the reuse of contaminated plastics are being brainstormed now.
  • AI Innovative operates what the industry calls a “dirty MRF,” or Material Recovery Facility, meaning all municipal solid waste comes in for processing. Its dirty MRF is not in the US, however, but in Mexico, as lower labor costs allow for the intesive sorting process. This facility maintains a 15% recycling rate per weight of solid waste.
  • The AI Innovative Houston facility operates as a single stream MRF, or clean MRF, taking in cleaned plastics only with an 80% recycling rate.

Call AI Innovative and find a way to reduce your waste stream. They love a challenge, as we learned all about at their tour.

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