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Local Facility Repurposes Electronics

Have you ever wondered what happens to your old cell phones and computers after you drop them off to be recycled? A Buffalo Grove business converts discarded electronics into new products.

A nearby business is breathing new life into discarded electronics by converting them into various new materials.

Old disc drives, computers, TVs, VCRs and other equipment are collected at Electronics Recycling Services (ERS) in Buffalo Grove and transformed into other consumer products.

“We take exercise equipment, anything that has to do with electronics,” said Jim Johnston, marketing operations manager. “Ninety-eight percent of everything that comes into our door is recycled.”

“I think a lot of people, once they get to see our facility, see we’re an innovative company,” Johnston said. 

The discarded electronics come from companies that contract with ERS as well as from schools, fitness centers and even local residents.

ERS’ proprietary machines are used to crush old electronics, separate the different materials and produce new products. Glass from monitors is mixed with natural stone to produce floor tiles, plastics are transformed into polyvinyl lumber and metals are melted down and sold to other companies. A rare earth mineral used in LED devices is collected and sold to manufacturers for reuse. Electronics are fed, in various stages, through eight or nine machines in the process of creating a new product.

Scroll through the photo gallery to follow the conversion process.

The entire process is completed in the business’ 80,000-square-foot facility, which opened in July on Busch Parkway. ERS made up largely of warehouse space that houses the machinery and stores pallets of products waiting to be recycled. Supplies come in by the truckload, Johnston said.

“Some days we get 20,000 pounds of stuff,” he said.

“That’s plastic,” he said, cupping a handful of a sawdust-like material in the production area. “At one time, that was in somebody’s computer.”

The business’ efforts, he said, help reduce the carbon footprint and keep electronics, which can contain mercury and lead, out of landfills. “It’s always better to reuse things than to have them disposed,” he said.

ERS, which is an international company, is in the process of creating a showroom in its Buffalo Grove location that will be used to display products produced from recycled electronics. The community is invited to visit on Jan. 24, when the facility will host a Buffalo Grove Area Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event from 5-7 p.m.

Johnston said he’s also available to speak to community groups about electronics recycling. For more information, contact him at jimj@ers-international.com.

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