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Syracuse company recognized for developing new recycling method

A Syracuse company has won $100,000 in federal funding to help it reduce electronic waste.  

Sitting in a garage on Shonnard Street in Syracuse is the prototype for something called a “depopulator,” which could revolutionize the way old electronics are recycled. It’s the brainchild of engineers at the Advanced Recovery and Recycling Company. President Byron Tietjen says it essentially shakes the circuit boards while they’re being heated to about 370 degrees Fahrenheit, and the electronic parts from the printed circuit board just fall off.

“By using the infrared heaters, the novel aspect of that is it’s kind of tuned to the solder. The parts fall off, you can just about pick them up with your hand; they don’t get that hot,” Tietjen said.

From there, those small pieces can be sent to companies that remove the heavy metals and the old circuit boards can be reused.

Tietjen notes it’s much more cost effective than the way recyclers are currently dealing with this kind of waste.

“We know some other companies, when they extract parts, they use chemicals. And they cost hundreds of dollars per ton in chemicals,” said Tietjen. “This takes a few cents per ton, perhaps a couple of dollars per ton, and you have no chemical waste resulting from it.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has taken note. Regional Director Judith Enck says this is a unique concept that deals with a problem that’s only getting bigger -- electronic waste.

“Electronic waste is the fastest growing part of the municipal waste stream in the United States. And these kinds of technology are dominating our economy. And it seems like they’re designed for obsolescence,” said Enck.

Tietjen says the next step is to fine tune the research and come up with drawings that will allow them to build a production version of the depopulator. He expects that to take about a year.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.