Minneapolis-based Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Co. (MRM), which connects manufacturers and consumers with e-Stewards or R2 certified electronics recyclers, recently celebrated a major milestone with 1 billion pounds of electronics recycled.
Founded by Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba in 2007, MRM has grown its network to include more than 20 certified e-scrap recyclers that provide electronic scrap recycling programs to more than 50 manufacturers across 20 states. This includes MRM’s National Recycling, which offers manufacturers a national electronics recycling program with drop-off sites in every state.
Tricia Conroy, executive director of MRM, started working as a consultant at MRM in 2007 and took the role of executive director in 2009.
Of MRM’s staff, she says, “We have backgrounds that include experience as policymakers, environmental directors of leading manufacturers, recycling facility operators and other related e-scrap positions.”
In the Q&A that follows, Conroy shares how MRM assists electronics recyclers and manufacturers and where the company is heading in the future.
Recycling Today (RT): How has MRM’s network of electronics recyclers grown over the years? How does the company help connect manufacturers with recyclers?
Tricia Conroy (TC): MRM’s network of recyclers has expanded dramatically since the company was founded in 2007. MRM now works with more than 20 recyclers to provide sustainable, ongoing recycling networks across the regulated states as well as a national mail-back program. We work with a mix of the largest U.S.-based e-scrap recycling firms, regional recyclers and local collectors and transporters.
In 2019, MRM provided e-scrap recycling programs to more than 50 manufacturers. By working with MRM, e-recyclers gain access to many manufacturers’ businesses in one relationship. As we move to a more circular economy, we look for innovative, nimble recyclers to provide solutions for manufacturers’ recycling goals.
RT: How can electronics recyclers join MRM’s network? What are the benefits of joining?
TC: MRM has a multistep vetting process. Before we bring any recycler into our program, MRM conducts an initial desktop document review, and then an MRM staff member visits the recycler’s facility we are considering working with to perform an audit. We research each recycler’s downstream and network capacity before signing.
MRM adds recyclers by researching what companies are in markets where we want to expand our work and contacting them, as well as responding to recyclers who reach out to us in markets where we are seeking more recyclers.
There are many advantages to working with MRM. MRM was founded by manufacturers and operates as a manufacturer in the marketplace. Our goal is to provide a sustainable, cost-efficient and environmentally responsible e-scrap recycling program. MRM has a stable group of leading manufacturers participating with us and MRM often is responsible for recycling the largest amount of manufacturer weight in a state, so we always have recycling work to award.
Because we strive to build sustainable collection networks and relationships, MRM does not jump to different recyclers year to year or buy all the required recycled pound weight at the last minute as other programs might do. We still work with the first two recyclers we started with in 2007. If you are an environmentally responsible recycler with good practices, we will keep working with your company.
RT: How does MRM assist manufacturers in complying with extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws and growing regulatory requirements?
TC: We are proud of the assistance MRM provides, from assisting manufacturers with staying informed of changing requirements to complying with all state requirements and providing an effective, efficient and environmentally responsible recycling program.
The biggest change we have seen recently is the increased complexity of state reporting. While no new e-scrap laws have passed in the last few years, states have increased their oversight and added more scrutiny to ensure that recycling is being done responsibly and true collection options are being offered in their states. We’ve found that the increased state requirements have led more manufacturers to MRM, as keeping up with all the reporting and requirements is increasingly challenging.
RT: What does MRM look for in an electronics recycling partner?
TC: A strong manufacturer recycling program can’t just rely on audits. Programs need to have an ongoing due diligence program, including audits we commission and perform, third-party certification and documentation and regular staff interaction with recyclers. Even top-quality audits are a snapshot in time. To ensure proper material management and reduce risk for the manufacturers that choose MRM, our expectation is that recycling partners provide MRM with ongoing monthly documentation of material moved and other important activities.
MRM values recyclers who invest in technology to enable them to handle more types of devices and bring more value to the smaller volume of e-scrap weight we see today. Currently, many of the industry-leading manufacturers that work with MRM are increasing their efforts to have their products meet circular economy goals. MRM is always seeking recyclers and technology that helps us meet manufacturer goals to return e-scrap to electronic products.
We’ve also begun auditing more than just our Tier I partners. Increasingly, MRM has arranged for audits of the ultimate downstream locations in other countries. That’s an activity that we’ve added in the last few years in order to provide more assurance of responsible recycling for the manufacturers that work with us.
RT: What are MRM’s goals for electronics recycling in the future?
TC: MRM continues to grow rapidly, which we remain very excited about. We just hired a new recycling network coordinator who will grow our direct electronics collection networks. Our short-term goal is to continue the expansion of direct consumer recycling opportunities. This goal coincides with the goals of the manufacturers that work with us to provide recycling to consumers using their innovation and expertise.
Long-term, MRM sees the continued expansion of product stewardship regulation, and we will continue to position ourselves as the preeminent manufacturer-focused recycling organization in North America and beyond. This includes not only e-scrap recycling work but also developing solar panel and other future end-of-life product recycling technologies and programs.
Of course, we also want to continue our strong customer service for manufacturers and maintain our ability to respond to changing market conditions.