Starting an Electronics Recycling Business

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Photo by Cole (Flickr)

Acquiring Space and Equipment for Electronics Recycling

The Consumers Reports Green Choices Reuse and Recycling Center notes that 20% of old computers, 30% of broken televisions and 40% of unused cell phones were thrown out by consumers in 2007. With millions of electronic devices hitting landfills instead of recycling centers, an electronics recycler must have sufficient space and equipment to handle high volume deliveries. An electronics recycler needs to have space for a disassembly area, delivery dock and a small office to handle administrative tasks. The disassembly area should include a conveyor belt, a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) crusher and a storage area for separated metals and glass. Disassembly workers need to have gloves and protective goggles to avoid injury when separating wires, plastic covers and metal accents from electronic devices.

Setting Guidelines for Electronics Recycling

An electronics recycling business must set guidelines for acceptable products based on their long-term goals, client needs and laws dictating handling of hazardous materials. If an electronics recycling business wants to refurbish and resell electronic products, the list of acceptable items may be limited to those products that can be repaired by onsite staff. Electronics recyclers that are committed to selling metal, plastic and glass after processing to local manufacturers may accept a greater range of products because they do not need to worry about making repairs. Every electronics recycler must set guidelines for handling old or damaged products onsite to meet state and federal environmental protection laws. Computers, televisions and other devices may contain mercury and other toxic metals that are harmful in the wrong hands. The 2005 amendment to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 opened the door for electronics recycling by including mercury in a list of universal wastes handled by certified professionals. Each state has its own laws about the disposal of mercury, lead and other harmful chemicals though the common thread is a requirement for separate storage for hazardous materials. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspects electronics recyclers regularly to determine if staff members are using proper safety equipment and storage methods to maintain workplace safety.

Offering Services to Electronics Recycling Consumers

An electronics recycler that has experienced some success in processing dropped-off products should expand into other services for the community. Electronics recyclers can offer pickup services from businesses, schools and homes that have gathered enough devices to meet minimum weight requirements. Another service that can produce supplemental revenue is refurbishing and reselling newer electronics with the permission of the donating consumer. The recycler can post images, prices and refurbishing details on its website to encourage local and online sales. In order to become a stronger part of the community, electronics recyclers can also facilitate donation drives to benefit schools and local nonprofit agencies. These drives allow fundraising groups to send in hundreds of electronics products and receive checks based on their assessed value minus a processing fee.

Staying Financially Solvent in the Early Years

Electronics recyclers make most of their money from selling recycled plastic and metals to local manufacturers looking for cheap raw materials. While this revenue stream may be consistent, recyclers should seek ways to keep their companies in the black until business is booming. An electronic recycler can charge fees for handling oversized, damaged or heavy products during pickups and drop-offs to make up for the inconvenience of handling these items. Electronics recyclers can outsource disposal and recycling of accessories like cell phone batteries if they focus on large-electronics recycling. The Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation operates a network of battery recycling facilities in the United States that diminish greatly the costs of recycling cell phone batteries.

Marketing an Electronics Recycling Business

Electronics recyclers have to reach out to the community to encourage consumers to drop off their old TVs and computers. In addition to colorful flyers and posters placed around town, a recycling business owner should also get involved with local events designed to help the environment. Whether it is a forum on environmental sustainability or an Earth Day cleanup, an owner can put his electronic recycling company's name in the minds of consumers. Recyclers should also develop websites that list acceptable materials, cite reasons why consumers should recycle their electronics and offer contact information. The best way to market an electronic recycling business is to encourage recycling drives in local neighborhoods. Owners can offer spots on their websites for the most active recyclers in their communities to incentivize electronics recycling.