Tour of Total Reclaim Electronics Recycler

by Jaylen Schmitt (Class 38) 

Sixteen Master Recyclers toured Total Reclaim on March 29, 2013 to learn how they manage the sorting, dismantling and recycling of e-waste and Styrofoam™ in Portland.

Total Reclaim Account Manager, Don Hawkins (Class 52) and Andy Sloop, Metro’s Resource Conservation and Recycling manager, provided information about electronics recycling laws, recovery and markets. Located in Northeast Portland, Total Reclaim collects and processes all forms of electronic waste and Styrofoam™. An Oregon E-Cycles collector, transporter, and processor, Total Reclaim meets the criteria for E-Steward certification, R2 Certification as well as ISO 14001. E-Stewards adhere to the world’s highest standards in socially and environmentally responsible recycling. 

Although Total Reclaim collects fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs, batteries and other mercury-containing devices, these items are sorted in Portland then sent to Seattle for processing. The Portland office of Total Reclaim employs around 18 staff while their Seattle Headquarters employs around 150 staff. They also have facilities in Alaska and Arizona. Total Reclaim is the parent company of EcoLights NW, which recycles as many as three million fluorescent lights per year. All light bulbs and batteries are processed and recycled in the Northwest. Total Reclaim in Portland dismantles literally tons of televisions, monitors and CPUs. The e-waste is separated into leaded glass, white plastic (higher market value than black plastic because more can be made from the recycled product), black plastic, metal, wire and circuit boards. Any hard drives Total Reclaim receives are disabled by hydraulic press in Portland and then transported to the Seattle facility for shredding to two inch or smaller pieces and recycling of the resulting materials.

Total Reclaim also collects and processes Styrofoam™ on site. The rigid block Styrofoam™ is fed into a “densifier” which grinds it up and melts the material at 500 degrees. The melted Styrofoam™ is pushed out a hole where it resembles toothpaste coming out of a tube. It fills plastic containers, cools and then is turned out into hardened blocks. These blocks are put into “gaylords” (large, sturdy cardboard box about 4’h x 5’w) for shipping. It takes a 53-foot truck trailer filled with Styrofoam™ to fill a gaylord for recycling. In China, the melted Styrofoam™ blocks are used to make various plastic products like picture frames, lawn furniture, toothbrush handles, etc. Don Hawkins told us this melted Styrofoam™ product has a higher resale value than steel. 

When the Oregon E-Cycles program (banning disposal of TV’s, monitors and computers) began in January 2010, less than 20 million pounds of electronic waste was recycled. In 2012, over 25 million pounds of e-waste was recycled. This program has been a huge success and will expand in January 2015, when electronics manufacturers will be required to pay the recycling fees on additional printers and peripherals. Recycling one million PC’s saves the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as taking 17,000 cars off the road. Currently, electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream – it represents 70 percent of the toxins in landfills. This makes the services Total Reclaim provides increasingly and exceptionally important.

Thank you, Total Reclaim, for helping to keep toxins out of the environment and doing it in a socially and environmentally responsible way!