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Archive for February, 2011

Electronic Waste – Reduce Reuse Recycle

February 23rd, 2011 1 comment

Millions of tons of electronic waste is generated every year in North America and the amount increases with every new gadget, computer and smartphone that hits the market. In our quest to improve our lives through technology we are creating electronic waste at an unprecedented rate. In response, we have seen more attention focused on methods to reduce, reuse and recycle electronic waste.

Reduce

In the pursuit for faster computers, more features on our smart phones and better picture quality, we are constantly replacing our electronics with newer and better performing models. But what if there was a way to get that improved performance, more features and better picture without increasing the amount of stuff we buy? Well, there already is a movement afoot to reduce the amount of computer hardware that needs to be purchased in order to stay on top of the tech race. The term is “cloud computing” and although it may sound like a weather forecasting computer it is actually a concept of sharing resources such as computer memory, processing power, and software over a network. For example you may need a fast computer to run software that you don’t currently own and perhaps will only need for a set amount of time. With cloud computing you would contract with a company that has the type of computer/software/memory you need and pay them a fee to access it on the Internet.

Why you may ask is this reducing the amount of electronic waste produced? Well instead of you having to purchase another computer and more memory you can use what you need, when you need it from the company providing the service. The company will have one very large computer that runs the software you and thousands of others are using. Essentially, their one computer replaces the thousands that would have needed to be purchased to complete the same task. Their one computer can be used more effectively because while you are sleeping someone in Europe can be using your portion of the big computer which likely wouldn’t be happening if it was sitting on your desk in low power sleep mode. An additional benefit is that the company providing the service is likely to be continuously upgrading and improving the software to retain and attract customers. This means that you aren’t going to get stuck with a piece of out-of-date software in a few years. And, if you’re a business you can add users by simply buying more access instead of having to buy more software and hardware to accommodate growth. Cloud computing is both lean and green.

Reuse

We know it’s easy to recycle cans and bottles but who wants your old computer that is far from high tech? The truth is that lots of people might want it including schools, low-income earners, and even those pesky computer geeks. While it may not suit your needs anymore there is such a wide spectrum of computer uses out there that your old clunker may be just the thing that Junior could use to practice his typing or learn basic programming. Sometimes the latest and greatest isn’t the best tool for the job especially if you are looking to do a little tinkering under the hood, which is what many computer hobby hackers do. They are looking for something that they can strip down, try some new tricks on or simply strip the good parts. Whatever the use, if you can find Junior or a hobbyist, your computer will extend its useful life before it meets a shredder in the next phase, which is recycling. If you’re having trouble finding a home for your electronic waste or have large volumes consider a waste consultant who can use their knowledge and experience to find a solution.

Recycle

OK, you’ve tried to donate your outdated electronic waste but it seems nobody wants your old clunker. Now it’s time to find a recycling facility that will take your old electronic device and safely recycle the materials contained within. But a word of caution on recycling of electronic waste because all may not be well. If you find someone that is willing to recycle your electronic, ask some questions like “Where does my computer go to be recycled?” or “Can you provide proof of recycling at an approved facility?” If the answer to the first question is another country such as China or India you may want to reconsider. Not that all recyclers in China and India are irresponsible but there is considerable evidence that much of the electronic waste sent to these countries is processed in ways that is extremely harmful to the both the environment and the workers that recycle the waste. You may think your old iPhone is being carefully disassembled for valuable materials when in fact it is being processed in an acid bath over an open fire, which is then dumped into a river. This brings me to my second rule of thumb, which is asking for proof of recycling at an approved facility. Ask the recycler where they send their materials. If they can’t or won’t tell you, it is a red flag. If they will tell you, do a quick Google search on the facility they provide and see what you find. Ideally you want to have your waste recycled locally by a government certified facility that is operating a safe and ethical recycling system. Most recyclers dealing with a certified electronic waste recycler will provide a record of recycling to certify that your electronic waste was recycled at an approved facility.

The solution to the ever-increasing electronic waste issue is to use computing resources more efficiently (Cloud Computing), reuse and extend the life of electronic waste (Schools and Hobbyists), and use a responsible recycler (Local and Accountable).

Cash for Cans, A Chicago Perspective

February 18th, 2011 1 comment

Did you know that it really does pay to recycle? The pop cans and old pipes laying around the house have value, and turning those items into cash is easy — if you know where to look.

The easiest items to cash in are those made from aluminum, such as beverage cans, foil and tins used for baking. Most buy-back centers in the area accept aluminum and pay an average of $0.50 per pound for it.

However, most places don’t list the prices they pay on their websites; you have to call for quotes. It pays to save up recyclables until you have a large amount to drop off. The more aluminum cans, for example, the more you’ll get for them.

A-1 Recycling, of Fox Lake, pays $0.55 per pound for aluminum cans, but for deposits of more than 25 pounds, they pay $0.57 per pound.

Many buy-back centers still don’t pay for plastic bottles and newspapers, but there are other household items people don’t typically set out in their recycling bins that can be redeemed for cash. Batteries and copper wire, for example, can be recycled for money. American Metals Company in Chicago pays $3 for car batteries while A-1 Recycling pays $2.25 for every pound of copper house wire.

For people who have batteries they wish to discard and just want to dispose of them properly but don’t care about making money from them, the city of Chicago has a battery collection program in which alkaline and rechargeable batteries — but not lead-acid car batteries — can be deposited at any Chicago Public Library or Walgreens Drug Store in the city.

When it comes to copper, different centers quote different prices, depending on the type of copper, be it wire or tubing, and whether it is soldered or not. Most places say they need to see the copper and won’t provide price quotes over the phone.

The easiest way to find drop-off centers in Chicago is to visit earth911.com, which requires people to input both their zip code and the type of recyclables they have in order to find the listing of buy-back centers. There is also a web page on the Chicago Recycling Coalition — http://www.chicagorecycling.org/sites.htm — which lists buy-back centers for all types of recyclables. The information isn’t obvious from the home page, but if you search for recyclables by type, you can find a link that lists the centers where the items can be taken. It also has an interactive map showing the locations of all of the city recycling centers.

Categories: ecycler, materials Tags:

ecycler Wins the Challenge

February 8th, 2011 No comments

Ecycler has won the Fairfield Inn & Suites Small Business Road to Success Challenge!

As one of ten small business finalists vying for the grand prize of $20,000, ecycler received 15 free nights at Fairfield Inn & Suites to be used between September 13 and December 9 to travel around the country for the sole purpose of growing its business.

Ecycler shared its journey with the public by blogging, tweeting and posting photos. Several videos were also produced and uploaded to YouTube accessible via ecycler.tv. During the Fairfield Challenge, ecycler exceeded its goals of improving the environment, enhancing the social value of recycling and supporting local communities.

Timothy Laurent, co-founder of ecycler, said, “This win is a real boost to ecycler!” Laurent goes on to say, “We set some difficult goals, but succeeded at each one.”

Craig Robertson, co-founder of ecycler, adds, “We are excited about being recognized and look forward to using this momentum to get the word about ecycler to more people, businesses and cities to use ecycler for their recycling service.”

Ecycler plans on using the $20k to create a mobile application for the iPhone / iPad and to host a recycling bin contest. The contest will encourage people from communities around the US to design and to build the most cost-effective, yet durable recycling bin using materials from the Home Depot or Lowe’s or their local building supply store. A high-quality recycling bin typically costs a couple of hundred dollars and it’s heavy to ship. The goal of the contest is to see if someone can come up with a creative way to build recycling bins locally without the need to ship to businesses.

During the 15 hotel stays, Fairfield Inn & Suites was used as home base; ecycler spread word to numerous businesses and individuals about how ecycler can help them recycle for free. Ecycler posters were posted at grocery stores, coffee shops and restaurants in all of the cities visited as a way to encourage discarders to join. Discarders are those who give away recyclables on ecycler.com.

For more information

http://news.marriott.com/

http://www.businesspundit.com/

http://www.prlog.org/

http://www.patch.com/

http://www.bizplancompetitions.com/

Categories: achievements, ecycler Tags: ,

Terbium! More Valuable than Silver?

February 7th, 2011 1 comment

Pssst…hey buddy, wanna buy some terbium? I got some going cheap for only $800,000 per ton.

Our desire for the latest electronic gadgets made from exotic materials such as terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium have made these relatively unknown substances a very hot commodity. So hot in fact that the Chinese government has called for a halt to shipments of these materials for export. How come? Because these so called “rare earth elements” are so rare that Chinese officials are worried that domestic demand will consume all current Chinese production in the near future. Why is this big news? Because China supplies 95% of the rare earth elements mostly from mines in Inner Mongolia. Without this supply expect prices to spike dramatically which will certainly affect the electronics industry as a whole.

Rare earth metals are used in everything from iPhone circuit boards to flat screen televisions. With increasing prices and rising demand one thing is certain, rare earth elements are about to get a lot more rare.

While this may spell higher prices for consumers it’s good news for those that recycle old electronics because those old circuit boards are about to get really valuable. Like any market when a resource become scarce people get more creative in the methods used to obtain the resource. And guess what, it’s a lot easier to find terbium in used electronics than heading to the mountains with a pick and a shovel.

This is good news for the environment and recyclers. In the past there wasn’t much demand for old electronics as a recyclable item, old and outdated electronics usually gathered dust in a garage until the owners finally got sick of looking at them and carted them off to the dump. With increasing prices for the rare earth metals that outdated electronics contain that old stereo or TV could become a hot item with recyclers. Using marketplaces like ecycler makes it easier to match up those who have electronics to recycle with those who recycle electronics. If you’re like most people you have at least one old piece of electronic equipment cluttering up your house or garage, try listing it on ecycler to save yourself the hassle of recycling/disposing of the item yourself?

A detailed look at the rare metal situation: The Telegraph

CD and DVD Recycling

February 3rd, 2011 1 comment

As with anything one recycles, it’s important to ask “Could someone else use this?

The ultimate solution is to donate the disc(s) to your library or a local school–reuse where possible. Of course, with your data discs, reuse isn’t possible. But, perhaps some sort of upcycle art project IS possible. A few options are listed here on make-stuff.com.

There are three main pieces to consider when recycling discs (CDs, DVDs, Blu Rays or HD DVDs): the Disc itself, Cover & Liner Notes and the Jewel Case. Some materials are more easily recycled than others, but all can be put to new use.

Discs

CDs (Compact Discs), DVDs (Digital Video Discs), et al. are made of similar materials and contain three main components: plastic, metals and ink. Discs are made mostly from polycarbonate, although a small amount of lacquer is also used as a protective coating. Aluminum in the primary metal in discs, but traces of gold, silver and nickel are also present. The dyes used in printing on the disc itself contain some petroleum products, but when it comes to recycling, only metal and plastic are processed.

Cover and Liner Notes

Generally, cover and liner notes are made from paper and are relatively easy to recycle.

Jewel Cases

While some CD and DVD cases are now made of paper or biodegradable products, most are still made with plastic #6, a cheap, but hard-to-recycle, material. Of the three components of CD and DVD packaging, jewel cases are generally the most difficult to recycle, but there are some options.

Some interesting CD/DVD Recycling Facts:

  • A CD/DVD is considered a class 7 recyclable plastic
  • To manufacture a pound of plastic (30 CDs per pound), it requires 300 cubic feet of natural gas, 2 cups of crude oil and 24 gallons of water
  • It is estimated that AOL alone has distributed more than 2 billion CDs. That is the natural gas equivalent of heating 200,000 homes for 1 year
  • It is estimated that it will take over 1 million years for a CD to completely decompose in a landfill

How the Process Works

The components are sorted at the collection center, separated into discs, paper and cases. All paper gets bailed and sent to a paper mill for recycling. As for cases in good condition, they are inspected, packed and sold to raise money for the facility. Any remaining damaged cases and ALL discs get sorted in bins, and packaged in a container destined to a plastic reclaiming center.

Some discs leave whole, some leave as regrind. Regrind is where the discs are ground and shredded into small pieces–this allows for more materials to be loaded into storage bins/bags. This is now considered a scrap plastic that gets melted at the reclaiming center. When melted, the discs are de-metalized separating the plastic and metal component in the disc. Once the discs are de-metalized, they are formed into a low-grade of raw plastic.

Discs and cases yield a different grade of plastic. This plastic is not of sufficient quality for the food or medical industry product use; however, it is fine for the automotive and building materials industries.

Read more…

Categories: materials, recycle Tags: