Iowa e-waste recycling a growing business

September 27, 2014 Posted by admin

WATERLOO, Iowa | When it’s time for businesses to upgrade their electronics and gadgetry, the process involves a bit more than “out with the old, in with the new.”

There are government regulations, environmental considerations and a paperwork-laden “de-manufacturing” process that play key roles in the process.

There’s also money to be made if the process is followed carefully, Kyle Stone told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier ( ).

Stone is owner of A-Line Iron Metals, which generates most of its $10 million to $15 million in yearly revenues collecting, taking apart and recycling scrap metal.

“E-scrap” is a small but growing part of the business, accounting for as much as 5 percent of revenues by Stone’s most recent estimate.

“Our big thing isn’t computers. We inherited the computers due to everything else we do,” said Stone, who operates twin recycling warehouses — one of which is dedicated to electronic waste — at 1500 David St. in Waterloo.

According to IBISWorld’s Electronic Goods Recycling Aug. 2014 market research report, the e-recycling industry, which generally includes mobile devices, TVs and computers, generates about $8.4 billion a year and grew by 15.4 percent from 2009 to the present.

IBISWorld says the business is still growing, with expectations of “a very high annualized rate” of 10 percent through 2019. By comparison, the report notes the U.S. gross domestic product is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 2.5 percent over the same period.

Every cellphone and cathode-ray tube that gets replaced continues to feed the system.

Black Hawk County residents have a couple of opportunities each year to dispose of their old computer and TV equipment.

At one event in the spring, residents dropped off 761 TVs and 316 computer monitors plus 206 printers and copiers, Lyndsey Anderson said, noting the event collected 56,086 pounds of CRT screens. Anderson is an educator with the Waste Trac Education Team of the Black Hawk County Solid Waste Management Commission.

Businesses, whose disposal needs outsize the accommodations of public recycling programs, turn to companies like Stone’s.

A-Line Iron Metals collects materials from an estimated 550 business and municipal customers, many of whom are undergoing inevitable upgrades of computer systems and other electronic components, said Stone, 43, who originally went into the scrap business with friend Ben Stroh in their days as students at East High School in Waterloo.

Stroh ultimately focused on transformer and electrical equipment decommissioning with his company, A-Line E.D.S., and Stone took command of scrap metal recycling with his own business.

The two companies have no corporate connection, Stone said.

A-Line Iron Metals now employs more than 40 workers. One of the newest is Jeff Holmes, who joined as business development director in January.

Holmes noted e-scrap business has fed the company’s overall growth.

“Our primary business is steel and metal, but it’s really kind of taken off for us,” Holmes said.

The company has a separate building dedicated to e-scrap. In it, a worker, James Reed, typically can be found at a work station, systematically dismantling components and carefully depositing parts into separate collection barrels.

“James starts by taking the shell off and then he pulls the coolers, fan, hard drive, motherboard and sisterboard and all that,” Stone said.

Just behind Reed is a massive cardboard bin filled with circuit boards pulled from electronic equipment. Reed will scavenge each for reusable micro-parts to be used again.

Stone picks up and rubs a finger over an almost indistinguishable series of tiny metal prongs.

“We sell these for the recovery,” he said. “The prongs inside are gold-plated. All these little bars are precious metal. Where the CPU plugs in is gold. There’s also gold-plated brass.”

The company recently sent 2,000 pounds to a refinery, which will mine the material for metals and other usable content.

Stone estimated his company collects 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of e-scrap in a typical month.

He said as much of 80 percent of the scrap culled from an old electronic apparatus can be used again, often in a new TV, cellphone or computer.

“When you get certain customers that are changing out all their computer system, we’ll go out there and get all that. That’s a huge amount,” he said.

E-scrap is a small part of the business, but it was inevitable that A-Line enter the marketplace, Stone said.

“It’s one of those things that you’ve got to be able to change with the times,” he said. “Ten years ago, nobody wanted to do anything with the appliances. I felt that the electronics was going to be part of the new wave, and I wanted to be part of the ground level.”


Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier,

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

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