If you are struggling to make money, an idea that doesn’t seem to get thrown around enough in my opinion is the acquisition of e-waste.
What is e-waste? Wikipedia defines it as “Electronic waste or e-waste describes discarded electrical or electronic devices. Used electronics which are destined for refurbishment, reuse, resale, salvage recycling through material recovery, or disposal are also considered e-waste.”
How do you make money with it? Well, the short answer is there are a lot of ways. On a high level, you find ways to either refurbish the equipment and sell it or you melt it down for it’s precious metal content. If both of those sound like skills you do not have, don’t worry because there are many brokers that you can leverage along the way.
There are a few basic prerequisites that you need to keep in mind before starting on this sort of endeavor – you need to find someone who can refine the waste, refurbish the waste, and part out certain equipment. Ideally you can also learn and become at least one of those parts. I think being able to navigate local IT shops that buy parts like hard drives or being capable of selling on ebay are really great skills to have going into this sort of thing, but they aren’t necessary.
In the good ol’ days of 2008, a tactic I used was simply calling businesses and offering to remove all of their electronic waste for a small fee. I actually used to CHARGE them money to take their old and used equipment to then make money off of recycling.
This model is not really as viable in 2021 for a few reasons.
- Most importantly because companies generally know that their e-waste has value.
- Most companies no longer have older model computers that have ceramic and gold CPUs such as the 386 or 486 processors. New processors cost more, and so paying people to load a truck might not be as viable.
- Plastics, CRT monitors and printers used to get you some money – not a lot, but some. Now they cost you money to scrap.
The model that I find to be the most accessible and profitable for 2021:
- Establish a location – either a warehouse, an office, or your garage where individuals can drop off single desktops, laptops, and servers. Explicitly clarify you can not accept CRTs and Printers, or do it for a fee. While these single unit drop offs might seem tedious, you are not exhausting profit with logistics.
- Focus on cold calling datacenters and ask for old server waste. Large server environments will have much more precious metal content for you to make your money on. It’s worth your trip for servers, not so much for desktops.
- Focus on opening an ebay or e-commerce store where you sell working parts you pull from those servers. Those servers have several graphics cards, fingerboards, and other proprietary parts that can be hard to find for companies forced to keep their older hardware. There is a massive need for this.
- Keep good relationships with your local scrapyards and refineries as you might be able to trade your broken e-waste for reusable waste they have on hand. You can generally broker a better deal for yourself by trading components for their metal content and weight.
This isn’t the end all be all way to be successful in scrap, it’s just a way that I have used.
The Art of Refurbishing
Wikipedia definition: Refurbishment is the distribution of products that have been previously returned to a manufacturer or vendor for various reasons, not sold in the market or new launch of a product. Refurbished products are normally tested for functionality and defects before they are sold to the public.
You will find many different definitions for “refurbished” computer parts in the e-waste world.
Probably most common is something that is tested for 2 minutes to see if it turns on, and then is deemed ‘refurbished’. This is not acceptable if you want to have longevity. You must scrap with dignity.
You must test every feature you can with each device, and in some cases, to the extent you can before selling the product on any platform.
Here are some general guidelines for common items that have high value if refurbished:
- Hard Drives need to be stress tested, and formatted to ensure they still have a good amount of life left in them. I recommend formatting them with Blancco or something else that gives you a certificate of erasure.
- Graphics cards are also something of great value, but they need to be tested thoroughly. I suggest using 3Dmark, V-Ray, and LuxMark
- For Ram, I use Memtestpro, but there are many options that are just as good.
- When refurbishing something like a phone, tablet, or pc – you are going to have to take the time to test all of the features. I recommend spending an hour or two using it as if it was something you work on. Leave it running for a while. Run some videos and basic apps.
My golden rule for selling working items is to make sure that it is working well enough that you would feel good giving it to your technologically challenged mother.
The truth about e-waste is you will tend to be trapped trading time for dollars.
Here are some ways to make the process more profitable for every hour you spend:
Find a niche within e-waste you are the most confident in. For me, it’s refurbishing and selling hard drives I know will work for a while longer. Many people sell faulty hard drives, I differentiate myself by focusing on selling quality hard drives. Because of this, I am willing to buy larger quantities of untested hard drives – or better yet I’ll trade my other scrap for hard drives with others in my community.
Find other people that scrap, and pay them to help source your niche. Chances are you will find someone else doing what you are doing, but not willing to take the same risks. Become friends with them and find where you can help each other.
Search for the person in your group who is closest to the gold. If you sell to another person who sells to a refinery who might sell to another person who actually is harvesting gold, you should make it a point to see if you can get closer to the person who handles the gold. You will be cutting out brokers and saving money with every step.
Hopefully you found this article helpful. Feel free to email me with any questions (via the contact page)