Thursday, February 23, 2012

Reversing The Supply Chain To Capture The Other 340 Tons

When Durham, North Carolina, where I live, is ready to mainstream the collection of electronics in residential curbside recycling, it won't have to go far to find business partners. While stopgap events collect and recycle 75 tons of electronics a year, a North Carolina facility based here in the “Bull City” already processes 240,000 times that amount collected from across the state every year.

You’ve probably heard of “reverse recycling.” Now there is “reverse supply chaining.”  Reverse recycling is where businesses or government agencies or nonprofits move from using large receptacles for waste and small receptacles for recycling to using the larger containers for recycling and the smaller containers for things that can't yet be recycled.

GEEP (Global Electric Electronic Processing) is in the business of providing reverse supply chain solutions a.k.a. reverse logistics.  While it is truly global, one of its three facilities in the United States is located here in Durham.

The facility here is the only GEEP US location equipped to conduct both the ERPI process for shredding and material separation and ERPII or much deeper separation including nonferrous metals and plastics.  The facility also handles end-of-life recycling and refurbishing.

Durham is also now home to TriangleEcycling, a related social enterprise based in Downtown Durham.  It provides services for small to midsized businesses and organizations by employing off-duty firefighters for pickup and disassembly of electronics which are then wiped down to remove secure data before being broken down and transported via TROSA for further processing at the Durham GEEP facility with 10% of the profits going to Durham Public Schools to support sustainability education.

Based on EPA estimates, Durham residents probably discard 414 tons of electronics each year with 68% stockpiling the unwanted equipment in their homes because it isn’t yet accepted in curbside recycling. As a stop-gap, special collection events intercept and keep 14% to 18% or 75 tons out of the landfill which is where much of the remainder will eventually end up.

While residential curbside recycling isn’t cheap, it will ultimately be a far less expensive and far more effective and reliable way to keep electronics from polluting the landfill.

It's nice to know that when the City of Durham is ready to move beyond special-event collections of e-waste to using curbside collection to capture and recycle the remaining 340 tons of electronics each year, the City will be able to process them at local businesses while contributing to causes such as Durham Public Schools and TROSA at the same time.

Seems like a win-win-win to me!

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