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Start to finish: the system put in place by Gold Circuit Inc. aims to cover electronics recycling from remarketing through shredding.

For the outsider, getting a handle on electronics recycling can be a difficult thing, as the term is used to describe a range of activities, from component reuse to material recovery.

Off-lease or unwanted computer equipment comes in varying degrees of quality and, thus, faces a range of recycling options from resale to complete destruction.

Many electronics recyclers have chosen to narrow in on part of this spectrum as their specialty. But Gold Circuit Inc., Chandler, Ariz., has made investments that it says allow it to take part in a broad range of electronics recycling techniques so it can provide full service to its customer base.

THE PRIMARY OPTION. When Gold Circuit takes delivery of computer equipment no longer wanted by a corporate customer, it faces one of several possible futures.

Initially, all shipments arrive at one of nine docks and pass over a scale at Gold Circuit's 83,000-square-foot Chandler headquarters and distribution facility.

About 54 of Gold Circuit's 68 employees work in Chandler, where they tag incoming lots, bar code equipment and prepare it for further testing and re-routing.

In Chandler, technicians learn and perform a variety of testing, refurbishing and data destruction techniques to prepare obsolete equipment for the next part of its journey. This can include testing monitors to ensure that they are re-marketable and learning to fully erase hard drives so old information is removed to meet Department of Defense and other federal standards.

"This is a process that takes four or five hours to do correctly on a large disk drive," says Gold Circuit Inc. President Jim Greenberg, pointing out the difference between the erasing process compared to simply re-formatting a hard drive.

Although Gold Circuit has invested heavily in an electronics shredding plant it operates in near by Casa Grande, Ariz., most of its customers are still seeking the financial return that can come from the refurbishing and re-marketing of their off-lease or unwanted equipment.

Thus, as obsolete equipment has poured into the Chandler facility during the past two years, additional technicians have been hired (and all have been kept busy) to address the task of preparing computers, monitors, printers, keyboards and other electronic items for resale.

After technicians have had their chance to barcode, test, refurbish and ensure data removal for a wide range of equipment, like items are palletized or otherwise prepared for shipment to marketing firms who re-sell pre-owned computer equipment.

Greenberg acknowledges that the domestic resale market has become more difficult recently because of the increasingly low prices offered by manufacturers for new equipment. Nonetheless, Gold Circuit remains focused on pursuing the best resale results possible to serve its customers who want to maximize the return on their former equipment.

A segment of Gold Circuit's customer base, however, wishes to see its obsolete equipment destroyed beyond any potential for re-use in light of security or auditing purposes.

To serve these customers, or any customer that wants this option for just a fraction of the material it delivers to Gold Circuit, the company has invested several million dollars to equip the shredding and recycling plant in Casa Grande that processes an estimated 20 percent of the equipment that Gold Circuit receives at its Chandler facility.

THE POWER TO DESTROY. According to Jim Greenberg, the Casa Grande facility has served initially as a calculated "loss leader" that, despite the investment, is still the last option in the minds of most Gold Circuit customers and the Gold Circuit employees who work to re-market equipment.

"Most customers want to look at how much we can re-market," says Greenberg. "Others, though, look at information destruction or environmental liability first. They just want it to be shredded."

This part of the customer base can include defense contractors and government agencies for whom data protection is the highest priority or firms, such as some utility companies, that want to ensure they meet the strict environmental standards to which they are held.

Shredding this portion of its incoming stream is what Gold Circuit set out to do in 2001 when it opened the Casa Grande plant.

From the beginning, the plant was designed to meet the strictest emissions, dust control and safe handling guidelines.

Throughout all shredding and automated sorting and separating phases, material being processed is enclosed in a negative pressure filtration system that removes dust through a 48-filter bag house, a pre-filter and a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter system prior to any material being discharged.

In addition to being enclosed, the system's degree of automation means that monitors are touched by (gloved) hands only as they are placed on the shredder infeed conveyor. Once monitors are shredded, the leaded glass portion and all other shredded materials produced are sorted and conveyed automatically, eliminating exposure to potentially harmful materials.

The plant is automated to the extent that 14 employees manage and operate a system that can process up to 800 monitors per hour or 13 tons of electronic scrap per hour. Production workers rotate between the plant's various workstations throughout the day to keep their eyes and minds sharp, so they are cross-trained.

Monitors are not the only items being shredded in Casa Grande. According to Greenberg, incoming materials are separated into four categories to adhere to a philosophy of shredding "like materials." The four streams are monitors; personal computers; printers; and a miscellaneous stream that can include telecommunications equipment, keyboards and other computer peripherals.

Greenberg says of the "like items" method, "This way, the system is asked to handle many different things through the course of a year, but only to process like items during a given shift." He adds, "The idea is, don't try to do excessive sorting at the end of the process, but do some easier sorting at the beginning."

CAPTURING THE COMMODITIES.

The "like items" shredding method is one of several techniques being used by Gold Circuit to increase the quality and recycling value of the secondary commodities produced at its Casa Grande facility.

The Casa Grande plant has been operating to meet environmental audit standards since 2002, but in 2003 and 2004--as prices for secondary commodities such as scrap metals and plastics were rising--Gold Circuit researched how it could upgrade the plant to improve the sorting and separating of its post-shredder materials.

The company's research has resulted in a revamping of its shredding, sorting and separating processes, although the environmental and safety systems, such as the bag-house dust collection system, have very much stayed in place.

Before materials are placed onto the shredder's infeed conveyor, batteries are removed, cables are unplugged or cut (for separate processing) and, in the case of monitors, the plastic housings are removed for separate baling and processing.

Once on the infeed conveyor, materials head into a 250-hp, high-torque, four-shaft shredder made by Shredding Systems Inc. (SSI), Wilsonville, Ore. The shredder is equipped with a camera and monitor that allows destruction to be witnessed or recorded for customers that require this as a security measure.

Cross-belt magnets pick up the first round of steel scrap, while the leaded glass is detected and diverted into a separate pulverizer and sizing system to prepare it for its eventual journey to the Doe Run lead smelter located in Missouri.

Remaining materials continue to pass under additional magnets, through a trommel screen, which classifies materials by size, and through a powerful eddy current system, which separates the metals from the plastics and non-leaded glass.

Materials that need further size reduction pass through a secondary shredder. The machine, which is most commonly used by wire and cable processors, serves as a way not only to reduce material in size but also to liberate metals from plastics.

This portion of the shredding process produces the leaded glass fraction, a steel scrap fraction, a mixed plastics fraction and a mixed metals commodity.

But in order to produce more desirable recyclable commodities, Gold Circuit has added additional processing power in the form of a second processing line.

Some of the mixed fractions--as well as the power cords separated at the very start of the process--are directed toward the secondary shredder, which is made by Sweed Machinery and most commonly used as a wire chopper.

This processing line includes yet another crossbelt magnet to catch any remaining ferrous metal and a granulator with a screen to further separate metals from plastic.

The secondary processing line produces a No. 2 copper scrap grade that can be sold at a much better price than a mixed metals product. It has also given Gold Circuit hope that it is moving toward creating a No. 1 copper grade.

Plastics generated from the process have less lucrative end markets, but Greenberg is hopeful that this material could be gaining value. "It's becoming more valuable because it's a petroleum-based product," he notes.

Greenberg says Gold Curcuit's revamped processing system has required a lot of research into equipment manufacturers. "Even with all the research, trial and error is an important part of the process," he says.

RELATED ARTICLE: Near zero waste.

Gold Circuit Inc. recycles what comes through its doors first and foremost because that is how the company generates its profits.

But at both its Chandler and Casa Grande, Ariz., facilities, the company manages its plants to produce only a negligible amount of waste that is actually landfilled.

In the office sections of the buildings, scrap paper and beverage containers are placed into recycling bins.

In Chandler, packaging materials such as cardboard, wood pallets and plastic pallet wrap are also set aside and prepared (baled in the case of cardboard and plastic film) for recycling. A bin from a local scrap metals company is also on the company's property to harvest any scrap metals generated on the job.

In Casa Grande, a host of materials are generated through the shredding process, but Gold Circuit has sought out markets for everything, in part by investing in improved sorting and separating equipment to produce more desirable secondary commodities.

"At our Casa Grande facility, virtually nothing goes to the landfill," says Gold Circuit President Jim Greenberg. "And we even have a pallet repair contractor who picks up our wooden pallets."

The author is editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted at btaylor@gie.net.
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Title Annotation:ELECTRONICS RECYCLING SERIES
Comment:Start to finish: the system put in place by Gold Circuit Inc. aims to cover electronics recycling from remarketing through shredding.(ELECTRONICS RECYCLING SERIES)
Author:Taylor, Brian
Publication:Recycling Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:1702
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