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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refurbishing, and recycling surplus or outdated equipment, including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.
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.
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,"
has enlisted the help of student volunteers to prepare them for donation.
or other old machines that do not work. (A copier has a 15-year life-span.)
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
— Barbara Fox
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