GREEN BUSINESS – E-cycling your waste – Electronics recyclers build business on heels of Wisconsin law

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 :: Green Business
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

A STEP Industries worker recycles electronic equipment. The industry has expanded since the state’s electronics recycling law was enacted in 2010. More than 84 million pounds of household and school electronic waste has been saved from landfills.

Since the state’s electronics recycling law took effect in 2010, more than 84 million pounds of household and school electronic waste have been diverted from landfills. That amounts to more than 6.8 pounds per person from July 2011 to June 2012, up from 6.2 pounds per person for the previous program year (July 2010 to June 2011). That puts Wisconsin near the top of the 25 states with similar programs.

“We’re so encouraged to see the impact this program is making,” says E-Cycle Wisconsin coordinator Sarah Murray. “It’s a win-win, creating jobs in Wisconsin and providing an outlet for consumer recycling.”

The E-Cycle Wisconsin program started with the recycling law on Jan. 1, 2010. Since Sept 1, 2010, a provision of the e-cycling law banned electronics items such as computers, printers, televisions, VCRs and DVD players from the trash, landfills and incinerators in Wisconsin. At the same time, the state created a registry of electronics collection sites to help consumers know where to dispose of their no-longer-needed electronics.

One of these is IronHorse Recycling of Gillett. Owner Troy Krueger started the business about 10 years ago to recycle metal and automobiles. He added electronics about five years ago.

“I saw a need,” says Krueger. “When I drove down rural roads in our area, I saw TVs in ditches, and said, ‘Somebody’s got to do something about this.’”

“We really don’t make much money on the electronics,” adds Krueger. “We just provide the service, and we’re the only state-registered facility for miles around.” He notes that his residential electronics recycling business has increased about 60 percent since the 2010 law went into effect.

Norsec Computer Recyclers LLC of Green Bay has a similar story, according to owner Lee Kuehl, who launched his business in 2006. “A friend in the auto salvage business had problems finding a source to take care of his e-waste, so I decided to do that,” says Kuehl.

He signed up for the E-Cycle Wisconsin program as it prepared to launch in 2010. “The DNR provided great guidelines on how waste should be handled and transported,” adds Kuehl. “They really did their homework.” He praises the information connection it provides with other organizations: “It helps us network with businesses – other collectors and recyclers.”

Recycling is an industry of constant changes, according to Kuehl. Norsec has tripled in both physical size and the amount of material processed since its founding.

Lamp Recyclers, Inc., based in Green Bay, got its start in 1993 when parent company Werner Electric saw a need to be more environmentally friendly with light bulbs and lighting fixtures. Lamp Recyclers now collects bulbs across the Midwest, particularly from hospitals, manufacturing facilities and school districts. It crushes them in a specially designed machine that separates the components – glass, powder and endcaps – and carefully filters gasses through carbon filters. All components are then sent off for appropriate disposal.

Lamp Recyclers President Dick Coffey has led the company since 1994, and helped move the organization toward collecting computers and other e-waste, as well. “We had trucks going to a lot of large businesses anyway, and their environmental staffs wanted to outsource the work to an organization that would manage it properly so they wouldn’t be held liable down the road.”

Coffey says Lamp Recyclers registered as a collector of household electronics with E-Cycle Wisconsin when the program began, but that its residential work is primarily a public service. About 99 percent of its recycling work is with businesses.

What about the future of electronics recycling?

“It will only get tougher, as regulations tighten,” says Coffey. “There are still too many items going into the landfill that shouldn’t.”

STEP Industries, a not-for-profit organization in Neenah that provides transitional employment and skill-building for men and women recovering from alcohol and other drug addiction, entered the e-cycling market two years ago.

How has their business changed? “We’ve diversified because there was a real need,” says Michelle Devine Giese, the organization’s president. “We initially only accepted computer equipment, but now we take televisions, VCRs, DVD players and fax machines.”

STEP Industries is also a registered collector through E-Cycle Wisconsin. “There are not a lot of places in Neenah to go, and it helps people find us easier,” adds Devine Giese. It collected more than 47,000 pounds of e-waste in its first year, and has already taken in more than 51,000 pounds of residential and school e-waste this year. Business e-waste this year is projected at more than 35,000 pounds, about three times more than in 2011.

Currently more than 400 Wisconsin businesses and organizations are registered with E-Cycle Wisconsin as residential collectors. Just over one-quarter of them are located in the 18 counties of the New North region.

See the complete list of e-cycling companies by county at dnr.wi.gov and search E-Cycle Wisconsin.

 

ON THE WEB

See the complete list of e-cycling companies by county at dnr.wi.gov and search E-Cycle Wisconsin.

E-Cycle Wisconsin: http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Ecycle/wisconsin.html

IronHorse Recycling: www.ironhorserecycling.com

Norsec Computer Recyclers LLC: www.norseccr.com

Lamp Recyclers, Inc.: www.lamprecyclers.com

STEP Industries: www.stepindustries.com