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What is the difference between a consolidator, transporter, processor and asset management service?

There are many International standards and terms that define the different recycling services out there, and as more rules are created, their definitions become more clear.  The explanations below explain the basic stereo-types based on how the respective operations work and include some very important facts that all ewaste generators should know before contracting a recycling service. 
There are 3 basic electronics recycling services:
Transporters/Consolidators - these organizations are brokers with a logistics system.  Their model involves the most efficient methods of collecting large volumes of material, accumulating the materials in storage until they have enough volume of each material type to transport to the highest paying processor or exporter.  Consolidated materials tend to change hands multiple times - from broker to broker before it is actually processed via destruction.  Materials handled by consolidators have an estimated reuse rate of less than 2% internationally.  This business model is dependant on minimal handling and documentation costs, and maximizing pickup fees and materials resale value.  Transporters/Consolidators are usually small unstable operations whose environmental standards go up or down with scrap material market values.

  • Pros: Quick on site and typically low fees.

  • Cons: Little to no documentation, unable to guaranty declassification or data destruction, almost certain exporting of materials to processors in poorly regulated states or countries and no after-the-fact accountability or transparency. 

  • Ratings (1=poor, 5=great): Accountability - 1;Dependability/Reputation - 2; Environmental - 2; Fees - 3

Processors - can also be transporters/consolidators.  Processors are a much better option than consolidators because their facility is typically the end of the road for most of the materials they receive.  This provides a higher level of accountability since processing facilities are licensed by state DEP officials, and can be inspected by your staff.  These organizations are more dependant on the publics' opinion of them (reputation) and have far higher environmental standards than consolidators/transporters.

  • Pros - higher operational & management transparency improve (but do not guaranty) materials accountability and data security.

  • Cons - facilities and processing expenses mean higher fees.  Most processors still use a high volume destructive process with no regard or credit to the generator for reuse.  Reuse rate averages for processors is still typically under 10%.

  • Ratings (1=poor, 5=great): Accountability - 3;Dependability/Reputation - 4; Environmental - 3; Fees - 2

Asset Management/Recovery Services - These organizations have all the advantages of a processor and then some.  While most of these organizations have the ability to process material, they do take reusable materials into account - which reduces the fees due by the generator.  Not only is this practice more environmentally friendly because of its focus on reuse, but the accounting systems involved with testing and recording each device results in more definitive data destruction, and detailed reporting back to the generator for use in their accounting/IT systems.

  • Pros - very high environmental practices due to focus on reuse, which reflects well on generators who use these services -especially those with sustainability concerns;

  • Cons - even with reuse discounting/returns factored in, the up front fees usually keep overall costs at par, if not a little higher than the fees paid to a processor.
  • Ratings (1=poor, 5=great): Accountability - 5;Dependability/Reputation - 4; Environmental - 4; Fees - 2

Until the creation of eWaste Alternatives, these services defined the legitimate limits of how electronics were recycled. 
eWaste Alternatives is really a full Asset Management & recovery service with five significant improvements.

  1. The service does not charge handling, testing, recording and data destruction fees to generators - these normally expensive services are included free of charge;
  2. We do not charge for materials that have a real salvage value - such as non-functioning laptop or desktop computers.  The value we recover from these materials helps us pay for the labor to process them - largely people with disabilities;
  3. Electronics (mostly technology) that can be reused is completely reconditioned by professionals and technology students;
  4. Our non profit 501(C)3 status, and your reusable technology donations can in most cases be tax-deductible. 
  5. The end product - completely reconditioned, low cost personal computer systems & components- are sold near market value to the public - and the proceeds generated reduce the cost of systems sold to low income individuals and families who need a quality ultra low cost computer for use toward academic or career skills development goals.

The eWaste Alternatives program is owned and operated by Skills' Inc, a 501(C)3 non-profit corporation. This means that profits do not go as dividends to stockholders, but are instead re-invested in our social mission, which is to provide living and employment supports for people with disabilities.  This constant reinvestment allows the program to sustain itself, develop the service and create more opportunity for those we serve.  
Although I am very partial to our program, here's where I think eWaste Alternatives rates...
Ratings (1=poor, 5=great): Accountability - 4;Dependability/Reputation - 4; Environmental - 5; Fees - 4
Rating abstract - for accountability, large well developed and capitalized asset management firms have it over ewaste alternatives due to their extremely evolved materials tracking abilities.  For dependability & reputation, our program just optained its DEP/EPA licenses in 2008.  Environmentally our utilizes much more material than any other service I've studied - an average of 64% (vs asset management standards of 35%). Our fees are hands down the lowest around because we leverage a great deal of volunteerism and can recover costs through our larger percentage of reuse.  Typically our donors experience a 70% reduction in their IT disposal costs, far more detailed documentation for accountability than they are used to and know that their surplus technology will be used in the best manner possible.


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