Each year, anywhere from 30 to 50 million tons of electronic devices are thrown away all over the world.
As the owner of Protec Recycling, one of Alabama’s newest electronics recyclers, Danny Skinner is on a lifelong mission to keep as many items out of landfills as possible to help make a huge dent in that number.
Skinner first became immersed in the recycling industry just after college when he went to work for his uncle’s metal recycling company, Jordan Scrap. He later opened a retail business servicing smartphones and tablets, offering customers the opportunity to replace damaged parts instead of purchasing entirely new products.
His latest venture, Protec Recycling, is also dedicated to keeping items out of landfills. With a mission to help manage Alabama’s electronic waste in the most environmentally-sustainable way, the company is also committed to doing so without compromising data security in the process.
“Electronics contain hazardous substances like cadmium, lead, and mercury that should never be put in the trash,” says Skinner. “If these toxins end up in a landfill, they can poison the water and soil. If they are incinerated, they emit toxic gases.”
Many of the main components that go into making electronics work are attributed to minerals known as rare earth elements, a group of chemical elements that aren’t necessarily rare in terms of their chemical abundance in the Earth’s crust. However, they are usually discovered in low concentrations in ore and mineral deposits, and due to the great demand for creating electronic technologies such as cell phones, tablets, or laptops, our current supply of these elements is dwindling.
“Extending the life of electronics by repair, resale, or donation helps to get the most out of these elements, which are used in such small quantities that recovering them directly is currently impracticable,” says Skinner.
“Personally, I started recycling regularly when I realized my generation is only on this planet for a blip of time, and now I feel guilty if I don’t maintain the practice,” says Skinner. “It’s such an easy way to make an impact.”
In today’s world, there are often many different goals and agendas when it comes to recycling, and depending on resources and other things, it’s not always an easy practice to initiate let alone maintain. This dilemma is especially true when it comes to electronics.
In fact, many of the items collected by Protec require hands-on separating methods which in turn often means the cost to process the item ends up being more than the end value. As a result, Protec often has to charge to collect electronics. “It’s tough to convince someone to pay $10 to recycle a CRT monitor, for instance, when the dumpster accepts it for free.”
From a business perspective, however, Skinner says many companies also consider the financial benefits of electronics recycling. “A data security breach can have an immediate impact on any business, and our processes and policies for secure data destruction help eliminate the risks associated with improper disposal of electronic equipment.”
While the process of de-manufacturing may seem complicated, Protec has developed a well-structured system to maximize efficiency and product turnaround. Once they collect and separate the materials they sort it into categories (steel, aluminum, circuit boards, plastic, etc…) and prepare it for shipment to their downstream vendors. Those vendors are typically large recycling facilities that use shredders to break the materials into smaller pieces, says Skinner.
At that point, the separate bins of commodities are then sold on the global market. “When the materials are sold, that’s where the real recycling comes in,” says Skinner. 100% of all electronics and their components are diverted from the landfill. Everything is used.”
For more information about Protec, visit www.protecrecycling.com. To find out about Protec’s upcoming electronics recycling events, see My Green Birmingham’s Calendar of Events.