Saturday, March 13, 2010

Maximizing profits from recycling electronic junk


If you recycle computers, you already know that mother boards are worth around $2.50 lb. We leave everything we can on the board-aluminum heat sinks, chips, etc. because these items are worth less money per pound taken off of the board (aluminum brings about .70/lb), so it makes sense to leave them on the board and get $2.50/lb for all of it......that is when you are selling the boards whole.

I have been doing some research about all the components on a mother board to figure out why someone would pay $2.50 a pound for them. I found that these boards go to companies that remove all the components and refine them individually. In my research I found the the IC chips, gold plated connector pins and other items are worth a lot more than $2.50/lb if sold in individual lots. For example, I found a buyer for the IC chips alone that was willing to pay between $5 and $10 per pound just for them!

Now my wheels started turning. Why sell the boards whole when I could make a lot more money by taking all the components off them and selling them individually? The first thing that comes to mind is how does a person take these items off the board? I watched a really awful video of some folks in China who heated the boards over an open fire to melt the solder so the parts will fall off. This method is clearly unsafe due to the noxious fumes and gasses that are produced by heating/burning the boards over an open flame.

After some more research, I found that a preferred method is to scrape the components off the boards. A bonafide board scraping machine is quite expensive, so I began thinking of other ways to load a pc board into a machine, hit a button and a large blade would move across it thus scraping the components off. After much looking, I found that an electric log splitter could be modified to do this quite nicely and it would not require a lot of modifications to do it.

This type of log splitter can be purchased for around $300 and provides 4 tons of working pressure, which is more than enough to scrape the components off of a circuit board. Excuse my photoshop skills (below), but hopefully you can get an idea of how to modify the log splitter for scraping. Simply put, a stop is mounted on the far end of the splitter to keep the board in place; the moving part that was used to push logs is modified with a blade. The blade is set at the edge of the board, level with the top of the board. As the blade moves across, the components are simply scraped off. I found several different types of plow blades that are low cost at a local farm supply store. In choosing a blade you need to use something that is easy to modify and readily available.
 Somewhat crude, but very effective in my opinion. Now that the components have been removed from the boards, it all needs to be sorted into a few categories such as IC chips, connectors with gold plated pins (which most all motherboard connectors contain gold), aluminum (heat sinks), etc. To find buyers or just get an idea of what computer scrap is worth, go HERE and search. The web site is a little hard to navigate but you will get some very good information. Happy recycling!

In an upcoming segment, we will discuss in detail how to find more buyers for all types of your recycled electronic components. Stay tuned!

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