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eCycle Solutions Inc. – committed to creating a circular economy

Michael Collins

President & CEO

eCycle Solutions Inc.

Interview conducted by:

Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor

CEOCFO Magazine

Published – August 3, 2020

CEOCFO: Mr. Collins, what is the concept behind eCycle Solutions?

Mr. Collins: eCycle is privately owned Canadian company. The primary focus is electrical, electronic and IT asset disposition. We recycle electronic materials back into the economy in a number of different fashions, from being able to put whole assets back on the resale market, to shredding of electronics and electrical equipment to extract commodities, steel, copper, aluminum, gold, silver etc. and put them back into the circular economy.

CEOCFO: What is the difficulty in recycling electronics and how big of a problem is it?

Mr. Collins: What most people think about is similar to the way they recycle pop cans or soda cans, cardboard and paper but with electronics it is a different game, especially with IT assets because they contain certain chemicals or components which contain hazards waste such as lead and mercury

We must deal with those aspects of the recycling process as well as being able to separate the various components to be able to get to that commodity that we can be put back into the marketplace. You then have the stigma of electronics to waste with products going into landfills which has been quite prevalent as of late in news broadcasts and a specifically in the Asian markets which has led to materials being band from certain countries. This has led to downstream markets for reputable recyclers to be closed and it has created more challenges for us to take that end-of-life product to market as a commodity. There are certainly challenges in respect to the industry as it evolves.

CEOCFO: Who is using your services?

Mr. Collins: If you think of who has electronics today, everyone does. Most people own a cell phone, tablet or a computer of some description on the electronics product lines and we are starting to get more and more into commercial products, toasters, microwaves and other types of household products. We deal with municipalities and their takeback programs. We deal with electronic sellers and their takeback programs.

We deal with large corporations who are wanting to do the right thing from a recycling standpoint to be able to either refurbish or recycle the materials that have come to their usable life with them as well as large enterprise clients who employ our services directly to manage materials out of their businesses.

CEOCFO: Would you give us a couple of examples of how the process works?

Mr. Collins: If you look at a municipality as an example or a landfill site, they are receiving materials and let’s assume they have programs for proper recycling, as an individual comes in or a small business sends in their materials, that landfill or that municipality will separate those items and either put them into a bin or cage. Once they have enough of a particular classification of material and in this case, it would be used IT assets, they will then request a pickup or perform the delivery themselves and bring the material to one of our plants.

Once we receive the material, we would sort the material in preparation for breakdown, so you are not going to put computers for example in with screens. You are not going to put the accessories, mice, wires, cables, and power units in with your laptops, desktops, and your tablets. We will separate those because there are specific breakdown processes to be able to remove either hazardous materials or potentially waste materials from those products as we put them through our tear down process. Then at that stage we make conscience decisions on whether we can refurbish that equipment or resell that equipment as a slightly used product or has the item come to end-of-life, as a result we will put it into our shredder process where the materials will get shredded and separated into its various components whether it is steel, copper, or mixed metal concentrates.

CEOCFO: Are all computers made of the same materials?

Mr. Collins: Generally, they are all the same. Obviously, there are proprietary components and the difference between an HP and a Dell or Apple or Samsung, but in general the fundamental internals are basically the same.

CEOCFO: If it is on the borderline, do you go for breaking it down?

Mr. Collins: There is a grading process that is utilized. Depending on the resell market that we have available to us and the time, and resell markets change fairly regularly, we can look at different grade levels to be able to either sell component pieces as whole units that are reusable or potentially materials which can be utilized for parts or parts harvest or broken down further in a process prior to be shred.

All of those are governed by R2 Recycling Certification, which we are R2 certified across Canada. You have to follow the regulatory requirements to use the right down-streams and knowing they are not just going to harvest all the really good stuff and throw the other more difficult pieces into a landfill or send them to waste. It is very important that we ensure the integrity of our organization by making sure that our down-streams are in fact doing the right things with the materials that we are presenting them with and supporting the circular economy.

CEOCFO: What is your geographic reach?

Mr. Collins: From a service standpoint, we do Canada and the US. United States because of some of the enterprise relationships that we have with some organizations and some partnerships we have with organizations that operate specifically in the US. From a commodity or downstream, we are global, and we do a lot of trading in Asia, Europe, North and South America. There are no restrictions on who we deal with from an end-of-life standpoint as long as they are compliant.

CEOCFO: Why would some company, city, or town, choose eCycle solutions over some of your competitors What sets eCycle Solutions apart?

Mr. Collins: We have and we do stand on the integrity of our services and our ability to ensure that we keep our clients materials out of landfills as much as possible, and that we are managing the security aspects of their electronic materials physically, so we ensure that their data is wiped and destroyed upon receiving the material. We provide certificates of destruction and we will provide organizations the opportunity to view their material as it is being destroyed. We certify and wipe the assets data or we will destroy hard-drives or other components that may contain data.

The integrity of our organization is second to none in the industry and our clients see the value in that when it comes to dealing with their material. We are subjected to auditing on a regular basis and we encourage it on a regular basis. We maintain our certifications; we keep ourselves in high standard with R2 and stewardship organizations that we deal with. We do not sell a widget; it is a service. The integrity of the organization and our actions are what separate us from our competition.

CEOCFO: Do you find companies are increasingly interested in both the security and the environmental aspect and has that changed at all under this COVID situation where nothing else seems to be of concern?

Mr. Collins: I have been in the recycling industry for the last two decades. Organizations have certainly taken a much more prudent view of being sustainable, and environmentally friendly than they were ten years ago. I have been in the electronics recycling business now for just over two years.

From when I started two years ago with eCycle, to where we are today, there is a definite enhanced interest in ensuring that things are done properly. We have very little pushback when we start to talk to organizations about recycling their electrical or electronic goods. Generally, people want to do the right thing and recycle.

CEOCFO: How is business?

Mr. Collins: Covid and the pandemic aside, business in not too bad. As businesses continue to open, we are starting to see material coming back but it has been challenging for sure the last four or five months. We were off to an amazing start to the year. We had executed on some good initiatives at the end of the year and we have continued to move the business forward with innovation and added services for growth and sustainability.

The virus has certainly slowed us down but we are starting to see some of those initiatives pay off for us as we continue to be able to take our end-of-life materials and be more refined in regards to what the commodity output is. We have expanded our ITAD operations for resale, recently within the Canadian marketplace and we are starting to look at the US and Europe for opportunities to expand.

The future for eCycle is bright!

CEOCFO: Are there newer technologies and equipment changes that you are able to take advantage of today?

Mr. Collins: I do not know about take advantage, but we certainly need to be more agile in respect to how we manage the processes. The OEMs or manufacturers have become more diligent about the materials that they are putting into the products and everything is being made lighter with less intrinsic value in it, so as a result we have to be more diligent in how we are managing the recycling of those products.

There seems to be more plastics, and glass versus gold, copper, and silver which are the highest valued commodity pieces. We have had to shift our business model to deal with the new pieces verses the older components which were made up of more valuable materials. I do not know whether I would call it an advantage or not but it has certainly provided us with some opportunities to rethink our business model. We are looking at robotics, and more refined processes to deal with plastics and glass.

CEOCFO: Are prospective customers surprised at the cost or do they just consider it a necessity of business?

Mr. Collins: I think those that are informed and understand the process are not surprised. I do think individuals who are not familiar with e-waste recycling are a surprised by the complexity of the recycling of electronics or electrical equipment. There is cost associated with managing the complexity and maintaining the proper health and safety of staff and protecting the environment. Educating people and businesses is part of the role we play.

CEOCFO: Would you tell us about launching a system to produce cleaner, reusable plastic?

Mr. Collins: We sat down about a year-and-a-half ago and started to think about how we could manage getting a cleaner more usable plastic from the material we are shredding. As a result we invested in a single pass float-sink system, which is separating metal concentrates from plastics and being able to get us to a position where we have mixed plastic broken down that we can go to market with, with a partner. They are then able to produce plastic pellets which are used to produce recycled plastic for the manufacturers who are making technological equipment today.

We are in discussions now with an organization in Europe about our glass and they are a specialist in managing recyclable glass. We are discussing with them what we need to do internally to be able to enhance our processes to be able to take that glass to a further downstream and contribute to the circular economy while we continue to meet the obligations and expectations of our clients which is ensuring that we are recycling as much of the material as possible. It is an ever-changing industry as new products come online and they have different components, and as regulations change not only in the world markets but in individual country markets, what you are able to do with electronic waste and the byproducts that come from that. We spend considerable time and effort in staying current with the market trends.  

CEOCFO: Final thoughts? What should people remember most about eCycle Solutions?

Mr. Collins: Recycling is better than putting them in the trash, if we all do our part the world will be a better place. Find a drop-off location near you, Google us and we will be happy to help. There are always ways to do the right thing from an environmental standpoint. It is beneficial not only for the ecosystems but also for the economy and for the planet in general. There are a lot of organizations throughout Canada and the US that are happy to take your goods and materials.  Do a little bit of homework and you can make a big difference for the environment.

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“We continue to look forward to working closely with our Canadian and international partners to meet the needs of our customers and to keep waste out of our landfills” Michael Collins, President and CEO