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The Entrepreneur's Guide to Computer Recycling: Basics for starting up a computer recycling business in emerging markets
PC Recycling Guide
Collection

The collection activity is not essential for the recycling company, as the entrepreneur can sign contracts with partners who can ensure regular inflows of quality material. Nevertheless, logistics represents a large part of the added value of the recycling activity, and very strict specifications must be followed, either by the company’s staff or the external provider.

Preparing logistics operations

Prepurchase service

Before the collection operation is carried out, the entrepreneur or the representative in charge of trade relations must define the financial and logistical aspects of this operation. The pricing of the service will have to take into account the quantity, the nature and the weight of the equipment to be collected. It will also take into consideration other factors, such as the ease of access to the equipment (wide doors, wide stairs, elevators, access wide enough for vehicles, availability of parking and manoeuvring area, etc.) and the geographical distribution of the collection places (several batches to collect at a single site, multiple sites to visit, etc.). A company representative will often have to go to the collection sites to gather information. These pieces of information will help define the organisation of the collection team and to choose the mode of transportation.

The entrepreneur may also try to sell extra services to his clients, e.g. the disconnection and removal of their computers or the disposal of computer data.

Organisation of the rounds

To optimise logistics and reduce costs, collecting rounds must be planned and scheduled according to constraints such as distances, volumes and weights. A round is composed of either a single collecting stop or multiple stops. If the enterprise has several collecting vehicles, it must use the most appropriate one for each specific round. The company can determine fixed dates for collecting rounds.

Preparing logistics

The collecting team is composed of a driver (who is the team leader) and one or two packers. The driver will prepare the round and check that materials and tools are ready. The driver must know the details of the route and have the business records with him (clients’ products list, copy of client’s orders).

Health and safety

Before collection starts, the entrepreneur or the trade representative must try to detect hazardous materials or potentially dangerous situations, in order to prepare the collection team and anticipate the reception of the equipment.

Handling and transportation

Handling

In most cases, equipment is scattered and stored in bulk. The first operation to carry out is the gathering and a basic sorting of equipment. Handlers may sort material by type and possibly by brand to make up pallets. Pallets may also be composed of homogeneous equipment or materials.

The typical range of containers includes pallets (for CUs, monitors and printers), double fluted cardboard cartons on box pallets (for hard disk drives and various optical readers) and plastic containers or drums (for memory boards, microprocessors and batteries).

Then, the truck can be loaded, in the following order:

  • 1. Big bulky pieces such as photocopiers, etc.
  • 2. CUs: Cardboard should be inserted between CUs to protect the front of their cases.
  • 3. Monitors: Monitors must be arranged screen downwards and separated by cardboard. The first layer should be isolated from the floor by blankets.
  • 4. Printers: Printers must lay flat, to prevent cartridges and toners from leaking.

Then cartons filled with documents, CDs, peripherals, accessories, as well as big bags of cables and connectors will be used as wedges to fill the rest of the truck. It will prevent other batches from moving during transportation.

Transportation

Any sturdy and reliable vehicle is suitable for transportation, as long as it is not overloaded. Even vehicles drawn by animals or people may be considered. Nevertheless, it is recommended to use a motor vehicle on which the trailer is equipped with stakes and a pallet collar to ensure better safety. For a small company, the standard vehicle is a 3.5-ton truck with a 20 m3 (7000 ft³) bin and possibly a tailgate. A double axle vehicle can carry 1.5 tons without overload; that is to say six pallets weighing 250 kg (550 lbs) each on average. Every vehicle must be in good working order, in order to prevent any air pollution. Indeed, they must reflect the image of the company and should therefore convey an environmentally-friendly message.

Health and safety

Staff must be trained to perform handling activities relating to transportation and these activities must be carried out with appropriate handling equipment in order to limit the risk of injuries. Handlers may use two-wheel hand trucks, caster-wheel carriages or pallet trucks. To avoid injuries, it is important to prevent breakage by fully filling containers and securing equipment before transportation.

Traceability

Once the truck is loaded, the owner of the equipment must sign a handover certificate to the recycling centre. Thus, the centre manager can prove that he is in possession of the said equipment. If the equipment is donated the certificate must provide a list of the pieces of equipment given up. If the equipment is sold, the invoice established by the owner and listing all the pieces of equipment serves as the handover certificate.

If the certificate (or the invoice) has been established before the actual collection, the person in charge of collection must make sure that the document corresponds to the equipment collected. In case of differences, the handover certificate must be modified.

Unloading and gathering operations

Unloading

It is recommended the vehicle is unloaded as soon as possible. Once at the recycling site, handlers sort material if it has not already been done. They weigh equipment by category (e.g. monitor, mixed electronic equipment, miscellaneous) and store it provisionally. If possible, the weight of pallets or cartons must be deducted from the global weight, in order to know the net weight.

Traceability

The weight, the quantity and the type of incoming equipment must be written down in an inflows register. This document will be the first element enabling batches to be traced within the premises. Each pallet or piece of equipment may also carry a unique identifier, to help with the inventory and the follow-up of batches.

Preliminary assessment and dispatching

Thanks to a preliminary visual assessment, the pieces of equipment can be dispatched towards the appropriate processing workshops, according to their condition. The functioning pieces do not need to be processed, except for cleaning, and can be reused as they are. If some pieces of equipment or their spare parts can be fixed, they can be refurbished in order to be reused. If the equipment is out of order or outdated, it is routed towards the dismantling workshop in order to be disposed of and valorized as recycled material. Following the preliminary assessment, materials are processed directly, following the LIFO method (Last In First Out) or stored, awaiting intervention.

Health and safety

Facilities must be protected and must not create any visual pollution. It is recommended shelves or racks should be fastened to the wall and ground, and to avoid overloading racks. Bays of routers must remain stored on the ground.