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December 2006

A Closer Look E-mail the author

EcoGlass Recycling, Inc.

Fred Robbins
732-730-2880

“We’re the only licensed domestic glass-to-glass recycler left,” said Fred Robbins, general manager of EcoGlass Recycling. “We’ve lost a lot of competitors.” Robbins has been the general manager for the past two years and said that the company itself is only about five years old. Yet, they’re recycling close to a million pounds a month.

EcoGlass specializes in recycling televisions and computer monitors, receiving them from other businesses as well as the federal government. CRTs and TVs come in by the truckload, with customers delivering rather than EcoGlass making pickups. While it’s unusual for a customer to show up with a single TV or monitor, Robbins said that he’d take those as well.

Robbins explained that the system they use for recycling is “a little bit of both” when it comes to hands-on versus automation. The units are “cleaned” first, until just the tubes are left for crushing into the approximately two-inch pieces. Most of the 45 EcoGlass employees are doing the disassembly and processing work.

Customers are issued certificates of destruction for the CRTs and TV. “We don’t re-sell any of the monitors, we don’t re-sell any of the TVs,” Robbins said. “We do exactly what we say we do.”

Robbins noted that there’s nothing wrong with re-selling used equipment, if that’s what a company tells its customers. But that’s not what EcoGlass is set up to do – the company’s goal is to recycle everything that comes in.

Plastic, metal and wood are recycled like normal scrap, but the glass needs to be handled differently because of the lead content. Right now, all of the glass cullet goes to an LG Phillips facility where the glass is used to make new video displays.

EcoGlass is also looking into new markets for the material, and is “trying to work things out with Samsung,” according to Robbins. He noted that with the volume of glass they are recycling, and with the company’s growth, he expects that they will need new markets for the material.

“It’s a new industry,” Robbins said, “It sometimes feels like not everybody knows about it.” In the years Robbins has worked for EcoGlass, he noted that the process has stayed the same, but growth has been steady as far as adding people. “We’re looking into a process that can do LCDs and plasma displays,” he added. More automation of the process is also a possibility.

Robbins said that one thing that surprised him about the business is that “it’s somewhat backward,” in the sense that it’s harder to get the product than to sell it. The market for the cullet and other recyclables is easy to find, “the tough part is getting the customer on the recycling end,” he said in part, because “people don’t want to pay to get rid of things.”

However, people are beginning to understand the need for properly recycling hazardous materials. With CRTs and TVs, a big problem is that “lead is encapsulated in the CRT glass,” and if the glass is broken, lead could leach out and contaminate soil and ground water

The lead in the glass means that EcoGlass can’t operate like glass recyclers who crush bottles and other “normal” glass products. Besides environmental concerns, lead poses health issues, as well.

Robbins noted that EcoGlass is inspected weekly by the Department of Environmental Protection and by the Department of Health, and there have never been any violations.

While Robbins may not have been looking for a career in recycling when he left the military, he said that he enjoys what he’s dong. “It’s not the same every day; there’s always something new going on.”

As far as the company, he hopes that customers will recognize EcoGlass for its “environmentally sound CRT recycling.”

 

 


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