When I sold my last business I was interest in E-waste / electronics scrap. I don’t know why. I’ve always been interested in e-waste since I saw a special on Nat Geo which showed how most of the stuff you take to a recycling facility ends up in the bottom of the ocean. I have cleansed hard drives and worked in data forensics as well and recycled a lot of electronics over the years, and even been in charge of putting thousands of machines back into use.
I went to visit an electronics recycler in 2013. There were front end loaders moving around gigantic piles of scrap. There was an assembly line of minimum wage workers tearing things apart with drills and saws and screwdrivers. This was a huge operation. The company aspired to build out into 3 states.
At first, the man running the operation though I was a spy, as I knew a lot about the biz. I’m just curious! I had met with some folks over at the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources. I had talked to town planners and employees at public works departments. I had spoken to e-waste salespeople. I have a friend in the precious metals business. I just had some spare time on my hands and wanted to learn more about this business. From the outside, it looked either inefficient or massively profitable, but I couldn’t be certain which. Every day at my IT firm, I received calls from salespeople desperate to get my scrap. Why? Why are they telemarketing I wondered? What is this? 1995? I also discovered that all of the businesses have a horrible Internet presence. (Often, people who have not experienced the success of ranking in search do not understand the value).
After determining that I was not a spy I was offered a job working with the recycler. The job offer was excellent- a company Cadillac, phone, & $100k salary. Not bad for not even wanting a job! I declined and they were able to find someone cheaper than myself to perform the salesman duties. Which was ok, I was building Telapost. Looking back, this was the correct decision.
Fast forward to May 2015. I asked my friend how things were going. He replied to me and said:
As you may know, the general decline in commodity prices has continued, and the Chinese economy continues to run in slow motion. As a result, the electronics recycling industry has had some tough times. One of our competitors (Creative) declared bankruptcy and left many millions of pounds of CRT glass in warehouses. The largest scrap company in the world, Sims, has shut down most of its electronics recycling operations in the US. We are hanging in there, but it is not a particularly easy time.
So, why is the e-waste industry failing?
If the major competitors have shut down, why in the world is it a “tough time” for recyclers? Of course, if they have nowhere to sell commodities, I can see that times would be tough.
Can they not just raise prices?
Last time I checked, e-waste recyclers used to PAY people for scrap. Maybe they should take it away for free, or, charge people to remove the waste. I mean, the waste has to go somewhere…
Do you know the answer?
I must be ignorant to something in this industry. If you have answers please feel free to contact me or comment below. But, there must be a solution. Or, maybe e-waste recyclers are really in a tough spot. If I discover more about this in my spare time I will update this article.