Metal Extraction from E-Waste to Grow

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"E-waste recycling will double in volume over the next 24 months."

Electronic waste from discarded computers, cell phones, etc. is becoming one of the biggest sources of garbage, but recycling of resources used in these devices is also rising.

Proper recycling of e-waste allows reuse of the metals, plastic and glass in electronic goods, cuts down on mining and energy costs and keeps these components out of landfills, according to Electronic Recyclers International CEO John Shegerian.

When Shegerian took over ERI five years ago, they recycled about 10,000 pounds of e-waste a month. This year it handled roughly 18 Mlbs./month—plus or minus 5%—a figure which will only grow, he said.

"We have landed so much business in the first six months of this year that we will double volume in the next 24 months," he said in an exclusive interview with Kitco News.

Of that figure, he said, about 12–13 Mlbs. is broken down into commodities, with about 4–5 Mlbs. refurbished for resale.

ERI is the largest U.S. e-waste recycler and has disposal contracts with firms like Panasonic, Toshiba, Best Buy and the city of Los Angeles. The commodities extracted—steel, copper, aluminum and some precious metals—are then sold to smelters around the world.

Without getting into specifics, Shegerian said the downturn in commodity prices during the financial crisis of the past few years bit into profits. People consumed less, so there was less recycling and big company's sustainability programs took a hit as firms enacted austerity programs. This year, though, he said volume for the first six months is up 15% from last year.

"The economy is coming back to life and people are buying new items and recycling the old ones. Laws [encouraging or mandating e-waste recycling] are being pursued and there's greater transparency and more enforcement of proper recycling," he said.

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