[Moving Zeal] Summer Recycling Scrap

Filling my car with scrap metal for a recycling run brought back memories working for an e-recycling warehouse, especially after writing at length about my thrift store misadventures. Both had daily and weekly weigh-in goals for keeping production moving. Unfortunately, that company – now gone or restructured – wasn’t earning any money, so we only occasionally met those wild goals. Still, it was a fun experience to remember on occasion. Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look into e-recycling.

We’d get e-recycling from two main sources.

Customers would occasionally drop off an old TV or some computer equipment; like the thrift store, we’d receive the donations and thank them. Our main revenue stream was from local businesses downsizing anything with metal. The thrift store had a similar “scrap contact” that would collect any unsellable metal from a metal bin we’d fill about weekly, so it’s a common practice. Along with that, I’ve worked in technical support for assorted companies, large and small, which provided further context:

What stuff would they scrap?

We picked up everything from broken or old computer equipment to small appliances and furniture fixtures. We accepted CRT TVs. Plenty of server racks, including one that nearly decapitated me and my two colleagues, but that’s a story for another day. Everything that we couldn’t sell went into a large shipping container that would get swapped out about monthly. If we wanted anything, we’d ask the boss and buy it for “scrap metal prices.” We’d weigh the items and it’d usually be about $2 per pound.

He ripped us off big time.

Scrap metal prices are around 7 cents a pound. That was the kind of shop we worked in, but it was fine. We worked hard. I’d spend most of my graciously-granted government-mandated 10-minute breaks inside, reading, physically recovering. I tried whenever possible to avoid “heat sink” duty, which involved taking a mallet to thousands of heat sinks to separate copper from aluminum. When the bins would all fill up, the owner and supervisor would go to a local scrap yard to get some big money.

Everything else went into bins.

Bins of various computer components, cables, and anything that might sell in bulk online. Most of it wouldn’t sell for much, because how much of a demand is there for a pallet of old power supplies? I remember once the owner bought a pallet of computers, and with the shrinkwrap still on, asked me to take a look to assess their value. Everything that had not rusted out was old by any corporate standards, so the most we got out of it was some worthless motherboards, scrap metal, and another example of questionable judgment.

An aside about CRTs.

If the screens cracked at all, we’d have to throw them in a bin lined with plastic where each addition spewed a volcano of probably toxic dust. If the screens survived, somehow, we’d stack them dangerously tall, shrinkwrap each layer of this sketchy pyramid, and the supervisor would sell them off

Those were wild days.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My professional experiences.
Inspirations: Besides the introduction? For me, when I write, it’s a way to purge these memories and thoughts, and maybe others will find these thoughts amusing?
Related: Other Moving Zeal essays.
Picture: A box of scrap metal.
Written On: January 24th [1 hour]
Last Edited: First draft; final draft.


My big goal is to write. My important goal is to write "The Story." My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame a fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. Let's strive to be better everyday. (Avatar)