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Reverse Logistics Talk

by Jennifer Bilodeau, Independent, Reverse Logistics Association

Reverse Logistics Magazine, Edition 57

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Electronic waste (e-waste) has been a rapidly growing problem as many of the components in electronics contain toxic substances that can harm the environment and pose significant health threats on the population. New Jersey implemented e-waste legislation signed into law January of 2009 (Lawson, u.d., p.3). It was found that 2% of the municipal solid stream waste was due to growing e-waste in our communities. The significant concern pertained to groundwater contamination from lead, mercury, cadmium, and brominated flame retardants (Lawson, u.d., p.2). It was also recognized that many manufacturers taking back obsolete or broken electronic equipment was shipping e-waste to impoverished countries where the infrastructure to safely manage the waste was non-existent and creating global health concerns.

The dumping of e-waste in developing countries was often considered the “green passport” because it offered economical and convenient means for manufacturers to manage returns and obsolete electronic goods (Pinto, 2008, para. 4-5). The laws implemented required manufacturers of consumer electronic devices to register with the state paying an annual $5,000 fee and “submit a plan to the State Department of Environmental Protection to collect, transport, and recycle covered electronic devices based on its return share in weight” in June 2010 (Lawson, u.d., p 4). On the manufacturing end, if a manufacturer recycles in excess of their share of weight, they are permitted to sell their excess credits.

Profits In Reverse Logistics highlights the current recapture of precious metals from e-waste that was once lost to overseas dumping. “Consumer Electronic device manufacturers use 320 tons of gold and more than 7,500 tons of silver every year to meet consumer demands for iPads, Galaxy Tabs, notebooks, PC’s, smartphones, and other devices” (Burger, 2012).

By January 2011, all approved plans were implemented and consumers were no longer allowed to dump e-waste but required to handle e-waste separately. Some communities offer an annual e-waste collection week at the curb, while others require residents to transport their e-waste to a recycling facility. Regardless, the state does not require fees for consumers to encourage compliance.

The immediate direct impact locally is the reduction of landfill waste, and the protection of harmful substances entering the water table. When e-waste is shipped overseas without the infrastructure to safely manage, the environmental and health risks are increased significantly in that region as these countries often landfill or incinerate e-waste creating persistent bio-cumulative toxins (Dittke, u.d. p. 8). The toxins are dangerous because they linger in the environment and accumulate in living tissues impacting not only human health, but the food and water supplies. As the concentration of toxins build up and increase as it enters the food chain, especially in fish, contributing to an increase of cancer, nerve damage, and reproductive disorders in the region (Pinto, 2008, para 19-22). By restricting manufacturers from sending e-waste overseas, it is directly improving environmental conditions and reducing health concerns of people in developing countries.

“The United State Environmental Protection Agency reported that in 2005, 2.63 million tons of e-waste was generated increasing at a rate from 8% the previous year” (Renckens, 2008, p. 286). Only 12.5% or 330,00 tons had been recovered through recycling Manufacturers are finding added benefits to deconstructing electronic goods to keep precious metals and raw materials in the United States for reuse in new products. “The United States alone generates 249.9 million tons of municipal solid waste each year with 25% being plastics” (Kanellos, 2012).

A thermal process has been developed for plastic in an oxygen deprived environment that depolymerizes plastic into synthetic crude oil. What is beneficial is that any grade plastic can be used and does not need to be separated. Waste from the process is used to produce energy, liquids are treated, and solid residue is made available for commercial use. “Roughly 8.5 pounds of plastic can generate a gallon of crude oil” (Kanellos, 2012). Approximately 5.6 barrels of crude oil would be processed from every ton of plastics at a price point of $40 a barrel dramatically impacting operating costs associated with highway construction vehicles and equipment.

Consider the indirect impacts as a result of new innovations both on local, regional, and global scales aside from the. The cost of fuel impacting the larger supply chain transport costs will slow inflation, if not reduce costs of manufacturing and transporting of goods. By harvesting plastics, and waste from landfills, there will be a slower rate at which we fill precious landfill space as well as lowering disposition costs. The cost savings using recycled materials will impact procurement activities. By purchasing recycled materials rather than harvesting raw materials, a manufacturer could feasible find all materials within a smaller region reducing transport costs. As the demand is lowered for raw materials, the price point will begin to fall.

When the thought pattern of waste management transitions to a resource management approach to identify and benefit from reducing underlying expenses that filter throughout the entire organization. RLM

Burger, Andrew. “Urban Mining: Billions in Precious Metals Discarded in Landfills.”Triple Pundit RSS. N.p., 9 July 2012. Web. 28 Sept. 2013
Dittke, S. (n.d.). The health and environmental impacts of e-waste. Retrieved July 13, 2013, from
Kanellos, M. (2012, March 15). A New Player In Oil: The Garbage Dump. Forbes. Retrieved July 13, 2013, from
Lawson, D. (n.d.). New Jersey’s electronic waste recycling program. Retrieved July 13, 2013, from
Pinto, V. N. (2008, August 12). E-waste hazard: The impending challenge. US National Library of Medicine – National Institute of Health. Retrieved July 13, 2013, from EBSCO
Renckens, S. (2008). Yes, we will! Voluntarism in US e-waste governance. Review Of European Community & International Environmental Law, 17(2), 286-299. doi: 10.1111 EBSCO
Jennifer Bilodeau, a Reverse Logistics specialist, formerly supported the Department of the Defense in day to day management of both inbound (return) and outbound distribution of goods throughout the command. She was recognized for exemplary performance throughout the base relocation effort working with internal/external stakeholders managing multiple projects assessing tangible goods for movement to new facilities, acquiring replacement items, as well as recapturing value from left behind products. In this role she oversaw reverse logistics operations including repair and warrantees, secondary markets, deconstruction and re-utilization of parts, as well as final disposition instructions.
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