The U.S. electronics recycling industry has shown tremendous growth over the past 10 years. This maturing segment of the scrap recycling industry provides a boost of approximately $5 billion to the U.S. economy (up from less than $1 billion in 2002) and employs more than 30,000 full time employees (up from 6,000 in 2002).
Last year, the U.S. electronics recycling industry processed 3 million to 4 million tons of used and end-of-life electronics equipment. More than 70 percent of the collected equipment is manufactured into specification grade commodities — including scrap steel, aluminum, copper, lead, circuit boards, plastics and glass. These valuable commodities are then sold to basic materials manufacturers in the United States and globally as raw material feedstock for new products, such as steel, copper, aluminum, plastic and glass.
Electronics recyclers repair, refurbish and resell functioning electronics equipment as used products into domestic and international markets. Companies also provide a number of logistical services, like collection, storage and transportation as well as scrubbing hard drives of sensitive personal and commercial data.
The industry is driven by equipment collected from businesses and commercial interests, comprising up to 75% of the market on a volume basis. The electronics recycling industry is poised to meet the anticipated increased demand for more used products and specification grade commodities, with companies currently operating at about 50% of their operational capabilities.
The electronics recycling industry has seen a dramatic increase in the use of third-party certifications. The marketplace is pushing electronics recyclers to become certified to programs like ISRI’s R2/RIOS® program (www.R2RIOS.org) to improve operational controls, meet customer demands and secure a competitive advantage.
The reuse of used electronics equipment and consumption of commodity grade materials recovered from electronics to manufacture new products boosts the U.S. economy, creates jobs and sustains the earth’s natural resources, conserves impressive amounts of energy in the manufacturing process and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from those facilities.