Tampa Recycler Turns Old Electronics Into Precious Materials

By Bruce Lundegren, Assistance Chief Counsel

In 2012, Greg and Dellinda Rabinowitz had an idea— take old electronic materials and recycle them to recover their precious metals, like gold, silver, platinum, and copper. It was an ambitious plan that, like many small businesses, started in their garage with a small amount of start-up money. Now, six years later, they have moved into a new warehouse that is four times the size of the original with a loading dock, two bay doors, and three offices. And they have just rented the warehouse next door for additional storage.

Meet “Urban E Recycling,” a woman-owned small business that Advocacy visited after its recent regulatory reform roundtable in Tampa, Florida. The company properly disposes and recycles electronics from neighboring recycling centers.  These electronics include computers, servers, hard drives, circuit boards, wiring, batteries, telephones, and flat screen computer monitors. About the only electronics they don’t accept are CRT monitors and older televisions because of the lead in their glass screens. They also destroy data on computer hard drives to Department of Defense standards and provide a certificate of proper data destruction. And, the service is free — The company makes money selling the scrap material.

As Dellinda (who goes by “Dell”) pointed out, “We help keep the Earth from being over-mined and landfills from filling up and being polluted with metals.” She added that “People will do the right thing if it’s affordable and convenient.”

Urban E Recycling is the recipient of the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce Small Business Award for Emerging Business, and the finalist in the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year.

Urban E Recycling gets much of its materials from the Hillsborough County recycling program, as well as from local schools, hospitals, businesses, and government agencies. They pick up the materials, bring them to the warehouse, and mechanically shred them to separate out the metals. The metals are then shipped to Japan, Belgium, or other countries, as there are no American refiners, where they are smelted to separate the metals at different temperatures. The precious metals are then sold through a broker and the proceeds returned to the company.

Greg and Dell’s company now employs about 13 people, many of whom are military veterans, and brings on additional people as needed.  As far as regulatory issues go, Greg mentioned affordable health care as a real concern, and said that “government should use incentives to lower the cost of benefits.”  He also was concerned about the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new Electronic Recording Devices was causing transportation costs to rise, as were surcharges on diesel fuel.

Urban E owners show Advocacy staff a box of recycled electronics
Urban E owners explain to Advocacy staff how precious metals are extracted from recycled electronics.

Advocacy was in Florida for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtables June 5-7th.

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Bruce Lundegren is an Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy whose portfolio includes safety, transportation, and security. Lundegren can be reached at bruce.lundegren@sba.gov.