A York County-based scrap recycling business is the first in the midstate to get a key electronics handling certification as a new mandate kicks in requiring consumers not to dispose of such items in the regular trash.
Recycling centers accepting and breaking down certain electronics from consumers have to have one of multiple recognized certifications, which include the Responsible Recycling Practices Standard Certification, or R2, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The Pennsylvania Covered Device Recycling Act enacted in 2010 is the root of new rules for electronics recycling.
Provisions that started at the beginning of this year mean manufacturers of certain devices sold in Pennsylvania — regardless of where firms are based in the world — must register with the state and implement programs for consumers to recycle products, said Lisa Kasianowitz, a spokeswoman for DEP.
And a manufacturer's recycling program operating in Pennsylvania can't transfer products to a recycling facility unless there is a recognized certification, according to the agency.
Then, starting Jan. 24, consumers will no longer be allowed to put covered devices and related items out for regular trash pickup.
Covered devices included computers, laptops, monitors, printers, keyboards, mice and televisions, but some items, such as cellphones, are excluded, according to DEP.
Electronics contain too many hazardous materials to end up in the "normal trash stream," the agency said earlier this year. They include lead, cadmium and mercury.
A recycling facility needs a certification to accept covered devices from consumer sources if they are dismantled in its own operations instead of forwarded to a certified facility, according to the agency.
Such an operation can still work with businesses or schools, it said. But regardless, a business or school would have to work with a firm with a required permit, DEP said.
The Paz story
Paz Metals officially formed in 2005 after Arie Yohanan and Leon Fellah, childhood friends from Israel, found themselves seeking better work, said the former's son, Roy Yohanan.
At the suggestion of another friend, Nir Shalit of Catalytic Converter Corp. in New York, they started going to door to door in the midstate offering to buy catalytic converters, he said.
These products are used to filter pollutants from car exhaust and contain precious metals such as platinum that make them valuable, Yohanan said.
Catalytic Converter Corp. supplies platinum for catalytic converters for Toyota automobiles. Shalit is now president of Paz Metals, Yohanan said.
The younger Yohanan is now the firm's electronics scrap manager. He is charged with figuring out the best ways to manage and sell materials from the electronics waste stream the company had started collecting, he said.
There was no indication of how profitable the business niche could be, Yohanan said. It was just a matter of realizing that there was a lot of this material out on the market, and nobody in the area knew how to handle it well.
The York County scrap market is crowded with competitors, so Paz has always been looking for niches to take advantage of, and its initial acceptance of electronics waste started from this tactic, Yohanan said.
Along the way, the company discovered it would need to obtain a state-mandated certification for its operations handling the products, Yohanan said.
An R2-certified company must show paperwork indicating where components of the recyclables it accepts are going — all the way to their final destinations, he said.
It also must make sure all data is destroyed and that it properly handles mercury, lead, lithium and other substances, Yohanan said.
It's a large investment to keep and maintain certification and follow proper procedures. For some items it could collect, such as televisions or computer monitors, the payback isn't worth the cost at this time. So Paz does not accept them, he said.
Paz Metals expects it will have to make capital investments and hire more workers to augment its staff of about 20 employees, Yohanan said.
It will not be the only entity in town that can accept such products, however.
The York County Solid Waste Authority, for example, can accept electronics for recycling, said Jim Stuart, Paz broker and sales manager. But it doesn't offer people money for items the way Paz does, Stuart said.
That's the value in general Paz has built the customer-focused business around: taking what some might view as trash and helping them realize that it can be turned into cash, Yohanan said.