Have you ever wondered what happens to your old cell phone when you turn it back in to get the latest version? More than likely, if it cannot be refurbished, it is recycled to claim some of the valuable resources the phone contains. Those resources are then marketed to vendors who sell them to manufacturers who can reuse the materials in new products. Almost 100% of that phone is recycled, which is undoubtedly great for the environment. But what about the sea of other electronics that surrounds us in the United States? There is a company that provides a turn-key solution for recycling these products and has created the infrastructure to receive and process electronics in all 50 states.
Since 2002, Electronic Recyclers International® (ERI) has been collecting and recycling electronic waste, specializing in the sustainable dismantling of consumer electronic items. Founded by John Shegerian, ERI is the world’s largest privately held recycler of electronics, recycling more than 275 million pounds of e-waste annually.
“The vision I had when I started ERI was to create a business model that would work efficiently to create the best materials I could for manufacturers using recycled commodities,” says Shegerian, Chairman and CEO of ERI. “We looked around the world for the best equipment to do this work, and I am happy to say that now with our proprietary machinery, we are a leader in the electronic recycling arena. We are very proud of this accomplishment.”
Over its history, the company has recycled over 1 billion tons of electronics, including cell phones, televisions, computer monitors, tablets and white goods like washers, dryers and refrigerators. Furthermore, ERI was the first electronics recycling company in the world to receive R2 and e-Stewards certification (the two standards of judging environmental responsibility in the e-waste recycling industry).
ERI has eight recycling locations across the country: Fresno, California; Aurora, Colorado; Auburn, Washington; Flower Mound, Texas; Plainfield, Indiana; Badin, North Carolina; Holliston, Massachusetts; and Saddle Brook, New Jersey. The company’s headquarters are in Fresno, California with branch offices in New York and Washington, DC.
ERI has the highest capacity and most technologically advanced e-waste shredding system in the world, thus providing its customers with a maximum economic benefit and maximum commodity return. All materials sent to ERI are 100% recycled into three main commodities: metals, plastic and glass. No electronics are placed in landfills, and nothing is illegally exported to other nations — all recycling and dismantling is done on American soil.
Desktop computers, or CPUs, are some of the most recyclable pieces of electronics in the waste stream today. As more consumers move toward mobile computing with laptops, tablets and other mobile devices, many desktop computer models are becoming obsolete. Yet they still contain a wealth of valuable components, including but not limited to: steel, aluminum, power/breakage boards, hard drives, copper, black and white acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, polycarbonate A-boards, processors, memory sticks, net plastic and other miscellaneous e-waste parts.
Some 23.5 million desktop units were sold in 2010, but that number is just around half of the number of laptops sold that year. The EPA estimates that most desktop computers are used for three to five years, with 20% of household units stored for two or more years beyond that before reaching end of life. Fifty percent of computers reach end-of-life management at 10 years. This means computers are some of the longest-used electronics on the market today. According to the EPA, in 2010, 20.6 million computers were collected for recycling, weighing an estimated 168,000 tons.
Television and Computer Monitors Too
ERI brought some of the best glass cleaning technology to the United States from Europe, and now has a proprietary system, which is located in California. The large machine uses a “dry cleaning” method to clean the glass, and when the process is done, ERI sells the cleaned glass to recyclers.
“Recycling glass from electronic devices is one of the landmark issues in the electronics recycling industry,” says Shegerian. “ERI puts utmost importance on this issue. That’s why we have built this technology and have had it environmentally approved in California. We want to build more of these facilities across the United States. After our process, the glass is so clean it goes directly to the best glass smelters around the world.”
According to the EPA, approximately 235.6 million cell phones were sold in 2010. That number only figures to rise in the coming years.
Smart Reuse of Cell Phones
Many cell phones received by ERI are still functional. These cell phones are tested, entered into our proprietary tracking software and, when possible, refurbished and resold. This repurposing helps give new life to old cell phones.
Any device that cannot be repurposed ends up being shredded. ERI safely breaks down cell phones into sortable commodities like plastics, low-grade and high-grade metals and glass. Approximately 17.4 million mobile phones were collected for recycling in 2010, equal to some 2,240 tons of material. (source: EPA)
Recycling 1 million cell phones can recover 50 pounds of gold, 550 pounds of silver, 20 pounds of palladium and 20,000 pounds of copper. A ton of mobile phones (approximately 6,000) yields approximately $15,000 worth of precious metals. (source: Electronics Takeback Coalition)
More than 40 million U.S. households now have Blu-ray players, and many of those upgraded from a standard DVD player to complete their home theater system. (Source: USA Today)
How does ERI do it?
The company first attempts to reuse and refurbish any electronics that is still in good working order.
Items that cannot be reused or refurbished are typically parsed to identify any working components, and then the remaining materials are broken down in ERI’s industrial-strength shredder to be recycled and reused in new manufacturing.
From the point of collection through the point of recycling, ERI ensures electronic devices are being managed in an environmentally responsible and data security conscious manner.
Here are some facts about the company:
- ERI developed and houses the three largest, most efficient and most sophisticated proprietary e-waste shredders in the world.
- ERI has developed the most advanced and efficient proprietary glass cleaning system in the world today, solving the glass problem that so many e-waste recyclers struggle with.
- ERI’s proprietary dust filtration system (currently in effect in every ERI facility) is the world’s most successful of its kind, keeping workers and the surrounding communities safe.
- ERI is a totally green organization – from the fleet of hybrid vehicles driven by the sales team to the electric forklifts used on the shop floor to the methodology used to recycle the hundreds of tons of electronic waste that pass through the company’s doors. Even the furniture used in house is made from recycled materials.
- Fed by an innovative system of inter-warehouse conveyers, ERI's shredding system is hermetically sealed and OSHA approved.
- "Cradle to Grave" barcode tracking system allows all materials to be tracked throughout all stages of the recycling process. This system insures compliance with environmental regulations as well as the privacy, satisfaction and integrity of ERI's clientele.
- ERI provides customers with Certificates of Assured Destruction, assuring clients that their e-waste is 100% recycled and is done so ethically and lawfully.
- ERI was the world’s first recycler of e-waste to be BOTH e-Stewards and R2 certified to de-manufacture and recycle every type of electronic waste in an environmentally friendly manner.
- ERI developed the first comprehensive video verification of destruction, providing clients with live video data of their e-waste destruction, removing all liability from clients and ensuring confidential information will never end up in anyone else's hands.
- ERI is the only e-waste recycler in the US to provide true nationwide coverage utilizing eight strategically located facilities across the country
- ERI has a variety of collaborating brands which help build exposure for ERI and its clients, including 1800Recycling, GreenisGood Radio, SellBackTech/BuyBackTech, and more.
ERI’s main objectives are to:
- Protect and promote each customer’s brand.
- Mitigate data security risks and potential liability.
- Provide efficient and thorough customer service.
- Ensure environmental compliance.
- Provide thorough, concise, and timely communication and reporting.
- Commit to building a partnership based on collaboration and trust.
ERI offers a multitude of solutions for managing electronics regardless of the type of business and the level of service required.