Sparks company recycles electronics for Mother Earth’s sake

Erich Schmitt, head of the Sparks operation of Intelligent Lifecycle Solutions, with pallets of electronics sorted and bagged for shipping out.

Erich Schmitt, head of the Sparks operation of Intelligent Lifecycle Solutions, with pallets of electronics sorted and bagged for shipping out.

The poster in the lobby of Intelligent Lifecycle Solutions says it all: “Protect Mother Earth!”

Deeper inside the cavernous warehouse in industrial Sparks, three dozen workers are doing just that by dismantling — “destroying,” in company lingo — countless discarded computers, cell phones and assorted other electronics, all in the name of sustainability.

“Our mission is not to put anything into landfills,” said Erich Schmitt, director of sales and marketing in the Sparks operations for the England-based company.

When the tractor-trailer rig backs into the dock, the forklift goes into motion, unloading pallet after pallet of discarded items, including desktop computer plastic casings, sent from all over the West.

The pallets are weighed and then moved back to be lined up at Intelligent Lifecycle Solutions’ four “tear-down” lines. There, gloved-and-goggled workers have at it with their tools, prying off parts here, hammering there, tossing circuit boards here, metal scraps there.

It’s a symphony of moving parts, from the dock to the tables and back to the dock in “gaylords,” heavy-duty corrugated cardboard boxes sized to fit onto pallets.

As the sorted-out parts go out the dock doors, their destinations won’t be landfills but other businesses that have bought them from Intelligent Lifecycle Solutions for their own needs.

And that, Schmitt says, is the truest definition, in Intelligent Lifecycle Solutions’ eyes, of “recycling.”

He’s constantly in contact with his providers, and at times competes in price with other recyclers for their inventory. And he’s constantly alerting his downstream clients of what’s coming.

While the values of what he and his staff extract vary, it’s all about commodities, Schmitt said ­— what the market will bear.

“It’s like coffee, beets or corn,” he said.

And for the precious metals, it’s particularly dependent on the markets.

Schmitt calls it “urban mining.”

There’s gold and copper in those circuit boards, and copper, especially, in those electrical wires.

There’s aluminum, silver and palladium. And always, he said, there is someone who will buy the parts holding them.

“Everything’s a commodity,” Schmitt said. “There’s a significant amount of steels. I work directly with our vendors that buy the stuff. There are lots of niches. You give them a proposed price and they either like it or they don’t.”

Intelligent Lifecycle Solutions was launched in England three years ago by Graham Davy, Jon Godfrey and Andrew Morgan, all, according to the company’s website, with extensive backgrounds in recycling worldwide.

The company employs 36 people in its 76,000-square-foot facility at 725 Greg St. It’s one of two such operations in the U.S. for the company; the other is in Salley, S.C., serving East Coast markets.

The company’s website touts its mission as “eRecyclers with a Global Reputation,” and the Sparks facility, in addition to its out-of-area western markets, takes drop-offs from across Northern Nevada, too, and charges $30 for each donated TV and $15 for each donated CRT monitor.

“We don’t want that stuff dumped in the desert,” Schmitt said.


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