The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries unveiled the results of a comprehensive survey of the U.S. electronics recycling industry at the 2011 E-Scrap Conference held in Orlando, Florida.
Eric Harris, director of government and international affairs for ISRI, told attendees at the opening conference plenary session that that the organization undertook the survey in response to growing speculation and a desire to get some solid data on the U.S. market.
Perhaps the most noteworthy finding of the survey, which was conducted by International Data Corporation and asked 182 U.S. organizations a range of questions, was that most end-of-life electronics are being processed in the U.S. and not dumped overseas.
“This challenges the notion that this material is being dumped overseas, because it’s not,” Harris said to attendees.
According to the results of the survey, 70 percent of collected e-scrap by weight is processed in the U.S. and sold as commodity-grade materials, including steel, aluminum, copper, precious metals, glass and plastics on the domestic and international markets. Some is resold as functioning equipment and nearly 18 percent is resold as equipment and components for further repair and refurbishment.
“The days of containerized shipping are over primarily because of the good work of the folks in this room,” he added. “We should be applauded for our efforts. This is a major shift in the market.”
The survey also highlighted the growth of the industry.
“We learned that there’s a lot of new jobs being created in this segment,” Harris said of the survey’s findings.
In 2002, less than a million tons by volume of electronics were recycled, which rose steadily to 3.4 million tons by 2010, according to the survey. Additionally, it found that during the same time period annual revenue generated by the industry rose from less than $1 billion to $5 billion and that the number of full-time employees in the business climbed from less than 10,000 to 30,000.
Additionally, it found that about three-quarters of end-of-life equipment came from the business and commercial sectors. Consumer and residential sources made up about a quarter.
Certification will become increasingly important, said Harris, with most organizations surveyed expressing a preference for the R2 standard.
“To participate in this market you’re going to have to be certified,” Harris concluded.