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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 10, 2000. All rights reserved.

Spinning Junked Computers Into Gold


The computer recycling business changes by the month.

Corporations and not-for-profits are getting more efficient at finding

ways to recycle electronic equipment and keep it out of the waste

stream. Two organizations lead the field in central New Jersey, the

for-profit ROEC (Recycled Office Equipment Company) and the not-for-profit

Trenton Waste Exchange (which has just tripled its hours of operation).

But the recycling field in general is wide open for would-be entrepreneurs.

Bill Mischlich of ROEC works only with businesses, not individuals

(609-208-0559; fax, 609-259-5499). If you work for a company cluttered

with extra equipment, his Robbinsville-based firm can help you clean

out your office, and if you have a dream of starting your own company,

it might even be able to lend you a computer to help fulfill that


In addition to computers and monitors ROEC handles fax machines, printers,

telephone equipment, desks, copy machines, shredding machines, file

cabinets, chairs, and related equipment. This business is for profit,

but Mischlich donates a percentage of what he gets to charity.

"I make offers and appraise equipment to recycle it," says

Mischlich. "We can tell small companies what the price is or go

in and make an offer. We upgrade and test everything before we sell

it, or we take it back if it malfunctions."

Mischlich, formerly a technical specialist for AT&T, started out in

the give-away business as a volunteer with Telephone Pioneers and

became an experienced appraiser. His services include purchasing,

refurbishing, and recycling surplus or outdated equipment, including

erasing all of your company’s data and software from your computers,

reformatting the drives, reloading basic software, and correcting

computer malfunctions. He offers appraisal and CPA services to help

verify the tax credit. He can help identify a nonprofit or charitable

recipient and take care of the moving chores.

"If you are a new company and don’t have any money I will loan

you a low-end Pentium," says Mischlich. "If you reach a point

where you can pay me you pay me. If not, you guarantee to me that

you will help someone else down the road." Though it took 11 attorneys

to write the contract for one big business, most of the time he does

business on a handshake.

His unusual business plan involves taking donations from two major

telecommunications firms that insist on anonymity. Instead of being

paid with cash to take these computers through the recycling process,

he is paid with machines. He gets to keep 40 percent of the machines

sent to him. From 20 to 30 percent of what is donated ends up being

used for parts. The result — 40 of every 100 donated machines

are used for schools and charities. They can be donated directly —

or they can be sold to buy CPUs and software for other donated machines.

Monitors. For an average cost of $35 Mischlich can repair

minor problems on a monitor and donate it to a school or charity.

"If it is a major problem, I ship it to a company in Philadelphia

that is approved by the EPA to repair or dispose of monitors."

This company will pick up a load of monitors and pay from $3 to $7.

Computers. Mischlich will take anything above a 486. New

software for schools need more than a 486, he says. "Schools will

not take a system if it does not have a CD-ROM, sound card, and speakers,"

he says.

486 computers go to the Trenton Waste Exchange, which

has enlisted the help of student volunteers to prepare them for donation.

Old copiers. Mischlich won’t take 15-year-old copiers

or other old machines that do not work. (A copier has a 15-year life-span.)

"I love this job," says Mischlich. He tells of being

able to donate 15 computers to an inner city school in the District

of Columbia that had no computers at all. In response to a request

in Montana he is shipping special equipment to a man, now paraplegic,

who has five children and lost his wife in the automobile accident

that crippled him. "He needs a brand new system with a big hard

drive so they can train him in voice activation."

If you need to recycle equipment from your home, don’t call Mischlich.

Instead call Carol Royal at the Trenton Waste Exchange and bring the

equipment to TWE’s drop off center at 800 New York Avenue. The TWE

has expanded its hours: Used electronic or office equipment can be

dropped off on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to

4 p.m. Call 609-921-3393.

Good computers are rehabilitated and the rest recycled. Even 486 computers

can be used for preschools and kindergartens and for older children

to learn to take apart and put together — or to use at home. Donors

who are not nonprofits pay a $5 fee for recycling a terminal, because

of its hazardous materials. NewTech Recycling Inc., located in Bridgewater,

remanufactures whatever cannot be used by the Exchange.

Keeping computers out of the waste stream is not just good for reducing

greenhouse gases or protecting virgin resources. It is also good for

the economy. Royal quotes statistics from the state Department of

Environmental Protection that in New Jersey alone private sector recycling

companies have created 14,000 jobs and contribute $1.4 billion to

the annual income.

For additional sources of recycling help contact the New Jersey Solid

Waste Policy Group at Rutgers Cook College (732-932-1966, extension

24) and or the GrassRoots Recycling Network, a project of the Sierra

Club (

— Barbara Fox

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