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Recycling the Big Stuff

Written by Earth911 .
They certainly don't fit or belong in your household recycling cart. So, where do they go?
Courtesy of Earth911 | Originally Published: 07/27/09

We spend a lot of time focusing on how to recycle everyday items. Your daily newspaper, your cell phone, your car's battery. But there's a lot more to the wide world of recycling than just empty wine bottles and CFLs.

What if you needed to dispose of something bigger, or more obscure? What if you had 10 outdated HVAC units and 1,000 tons of concrete? That is a lot to toss in the landfill, after all.

The units we're talking about here are known as "critical facility operations equipment." This covers any large equipment necessary for the operations of a building or business, such as generators, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), server and data room equipment, flooring, large HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) systems, and cooling towers and chillers.

To learn more about recycling critical facility operations equipment, we talked to someone in-the-know: Frank LoMonaco, the founder of Green Recycling Co. According to LoMonaco, who is actually an engineer, millions of these types of products are trashed each year.

What if you needed to dispose of something bigger, or more obscure? What if you had 10 outdated HVAC units and 1,000 tons of concrete? That is a lot to toss in the landfill, after all.

Green Recycling Co. is a recycling service provider. But unlike many recyclers, they don't accept paper, aluminum or glass. You can't contact them about a pile of plastic bags you've collected over the past few months that are in need of a pickup. They handle the equipment we just talked about.

Don't have a large stockpile of HVACs in your garage? That's all right, many private citizens don't have to deal with this type of equipment. But if you're a building, operations or facilities manager, properly disposing of equipment like this can be challenging.

So, What's This About Facilities Equipment?

LoMonaco works closely with various companies and recyclers through partnerships, in order to facilitate the recycling of the wide range of products he handles.Specializing in end-of life equipment and excess and surplus inventory, the company works to refurbish units if possible and use them again. It it's unusable, the unit is recycled, down to the last component. "It's important that we do this, properly."

Handling "big time" equipment is no new concept for the company. Here are some recent projects, to give you an idea of what the scope of this type of recycling can include:

  1. In a large project with Nortel, the company transported and removed 42,000 pounds of lead from batteries that they had on site. "It was all done professionally - the acid in the batteries themselves was neutralized and the lead was removed and recycled, and plastics were also recycled. No waste at all."
  2. They also recycled over 80,000 tons of concrete and steel, and the repositioning and reuse of two 750kw generators, in a recent airplane hangar dismantling.
  3. Currently, the company is working at an electronics facility in South Carolina, looking to reuse or recycling an entire water treatment system and large HVAC systems.

The All-Mighty $

According to LoMonaco, one of the toughest parts about recycling facilities equipment is the cost involved in moving, processing and disposing of such large units. It's often a deal-breaker in the green endeavors of many facilities managers.

But some companies, like Green Recycling Co., don't charge these fees, in order to encourage people to recycle. "We waive fees for our customers. Most sustainability directors that I talk to say that is a roadblock for them, they might not have the revenue at that time to do it otherwise."

For people like LoMonaco, recycling big-ticket (and therefore big impact) items like these goes beyond the bottom line. "Life goes by so fast, we don't know what it's going to bring. We need to focus on what is real, and our environment is real."

Recycling large items like this has its perks. LoMonaco enjoys "actually making sure that everything possible is reused to put back into recirculation, so we can move forward with whatever it is, not to just be thrown away and discarded. My excitement is just protecting what we should hold close to our hearts, which is the environment. I'm a small part of trying to make it right.

"This was just an innovative idea. Innovation is human invention of the mind that incorporates the future of success. We need to be good stewards."

What big pieces were you surprised to be able to recycle? Share your stories below!

Share this with Your Friends
  • Elaine F. 4 years ago
    Air conditioner.
  • Susan B. 4 years ago
    I was surprised that my old HVAC system was being recycled.
  • sharon m. 4 years ago
    Is there anyway to recycle household battaries AA, 9 volt etc. It seems wrong to throw them in the landfill?
  • 5 years ago

    I work in a law firm and we have old copiers and printers that I can not transport to the nearest recycling location.

    How do I go about doing this? Can I request somebody from your team to come out and pick them up?

    Ashley Mello