Industrial recycling: Send it around in circles (or not)

March 13, 2012

It seems that many people have an interest in industrial recycling, reusing, repairing, rather than buying new. Sometimes these options have a positive return on investment. It all depends on the distance between the scrap and the recycler's facility. The last thing one wants to do is spend more in moving the scrap than its value. It's a matter of ROI.

It seems that many people have an interest in industrial recycling, reusing, repairing, rather than buying new. Sometimes these options have a positive return on investment. It all depends on the distance between the scrap and the recycler's facility. The last thing one wants to do is spend more in moving the scrap than its value. It's a matter of ROI.

The main categories of industrial scrap seem to be steel, plastics, aluminum, and paper with a bit of copper and other less common materials tossed in. Recycling operations tend to focus on one class of scrap. So, to help you decide if recycling your junk makes sense, I sought out some companies that claim to operate something resembling a nationwide network. Your particular location is of less importance if you’re surrounded by recyclers

So, let’s take the categories one at a time. For ferrous scrap, consider the Industrial Recycling Network. This outfit claims to provide a quote within 24 hours, so you’ll know quickly if what you have really has as much value as you believe it has. And IRN claims to have a nationwide group of companies that are willing to pick up your scrap, thus making your life a bit easier.

On the other hand, if you have a supply of plastic to unload, you could consider contacting Industrial Recyclers Inc. This company also claims to service all parts of the U.S. and Canada. The company warns, however, that not all plastics can be recycled. If you have only uneconomical quantities or the plastic has some contamination, nobody will be interested in taking it off your hands. There’s only one way to know for sure, and you can rest assured that IRI won’t be contacting you out of the blue. Your ROI is in your hands.

If you had an airplane or two that were destined for recycling, you could probably make a bundle on the aluminum contained therein. Turning bauxite into aluminum is an energy-intensive chemical change, so it makes more sense to reclaim the old metal than to make new. The best way to learn who in your area is willing to take those planes and other aluminum scrap off your hands is to visit the website operated by an organization called Earth911. Enter the word aluminum and your zip code, click “Search,” and check your options.

Some additional online resources that you might find of value include:

The Economics of Aluminum Recycling” from the Center for a Sustainable Aluminum Industry

International Paper Recycling

Eight Great Myths of Recycling
Daniel K. Benjamin
The Center for Free Market Environmentalism

The New Recycling Movement
Neil Seldman

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