E-Scrap News

Editor’s farewell: Reflecting on a changed industry and self

After nine years at Resource Recycling, publisher of E-Scrap News, I have decided to leave to seize life’s next adventure. 

As I sit here, with leaves falling and the calendar creeping toward a new year, I can’t help but muse about change – about how much the industry has changed over the past nine years, about how much I’ve changed, and about how frightening or exciting consequential changes can be. 

When I started, in December 2014, the industry looked different in many ways. E-scrap companies and state programs were grappling with a swell of CRT tonnages entering the stream. At the same time, display device producer Videocon was still tossing America’s leaded glass into its furnaces in India (although the downstream disruptions began shortly thereafter). That CRT outlet has since closed, as have a number of others in the U.S. and around the world, but the volume of glass in the end-of-life stream has likewise decreased. 

New market challenges have emerged: Flat-panel LCD devices are tough to recycle economically, leading to cases of stockpiles or illegal exports. An emerging concern is solar panels, which are bulky and cost more to recycle than the inherent commodity value that’s unlocked (sounds familiar, right?). And now, seemingly everything has a lithium battery in it, presenting additional fire risks, and everything stores data, presenting additional data security issues. In a lot of ways, electronics recycling and reuse companies have transformed into data security providers that also recycle and reuse electronics. 

And these days, certification isn’t considered a “nice to have” as much as a “need to have” to win contracts. 

Some of the changes I mentioned above were frightening, some exciting. 

As I look back, I also can’t help but reflect on how much I’ve changed over those same years – likely in ways I don’t even realize yet. While at Resource Recycling, I married the love of my life, became daddy to the most wonderful daughter a parent could hope for and bought an idyllic house in a historic neighborhood I love. 

I’ve experienced the satisfaction of learning about such a dynamic, varied and essential industry as electronics reuse and recycling. And I’ve enjoyed connecting with so many of the industry’s leaders, many of whom I’ve also been able to call coworkers and friends. Their knowledge and perspectives have changed how I see the world in so many ways, and for that I’m incredibly grateful. 

Change is here

Major changes are now upon me, one dreadful and another wonderful. 

For much of 2023, my mom has been battling cancer. Less than a week ago, I learned that the cancer had been deemed non-curable and she would begin to receive hospice care. On Tuesday, she died. This sudden change – of living on without this family member whom I love very much – is frightening and wholly dispiriting. 

Yet simultaneously, I’m about to experience a change I find incredibly exciting. In January, I’ll be joining the staff of Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to electronics sustainability, especially the responsible reuse and recycling of electronics. My purpose will be focused on educating people on the best practices in the R2 Standard through a variety of channels, including articles, newsletters, social media and training. Much of my initial work will focus on developing content for the R2U program that seeks to create training programs for individuals. 

My overall goal is to continue my work in the industry by helping the world move toward a more sustainable future with electronics. 

I have no doubt that as I embark on this new employment journey, it will further evolve my worldview in ways that I can’t yet imagine. In the past, when my coworkers have left Resource Recycling to pursue other opportunities, I’ve told them that, even as I’ll miss them, I truly believe the saying that “variety is the spice of life.” Now it’s my turn to try a new flavor. 

I’ll be a Resource Recycling employee through Dec. 29, but because the last week of the month is a holiday week, my last working day will be Friday, Dec. 22. If you’d like to drop me a line before then, you can reach me at jared@resource-recycling.com. After that, find me on LinkedIn. 

Happy holidays, everyone, and hold your loved ones close. 

Jared Paben is the associate editor at Resource Recycling, Inc., publisher of E-Scrap News. He can be reached at jared@resource-recycling.com until Dec. 22.

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