D.C. firm ready to e-cycle

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Liquidity Services says it's ready to handle the government's used equipment.

The Washington, D.C.-based company is one of eight firms that recently won performance-based governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs) issued by the Environmental Protection Agency to compete for recycling information technology hardware. This week, Liquidity officials unveiled their "e-cycling" service, under which the company would bear the immediate costs associated with disposing of obsolete items or refurbishing items that can be resold online. Proceeds of those sales would be shared with the agencies. "That's a win-win," said Bill Angrick, chairman and chief executive officer of Liquidity.

Other firms that recently won federal GWACs for recycling IT equipment include: Molam International, Supply Chain Services, UNICOR (Federal Prison Industries), Asset Recovery, Hesstech, Global Investment Recovery and Hobi International. The basic contracts last one year, with up to four possible one-year extensions. Each deal has a combined potential value of up to $9 million.

The GWACs haven't taken effect yet because two companies are protesting the awards. EPA officials hope to start the recycling efforts this spring.

The U.S. government disposes of 10,000 computers a week, as well as fax machines, printers, copiers, wireless phones and personal digital assistants. Recycling those items is voluntary, but Liquidity officials hope their service attracts agencies that don't want to pay for recycling, including item pick up, transport, inspection, data removal and repackaging.

Once the EPA's program starts, agencies can use existing private sales channels under Liquidity's service, company officials say. On its auction sites, Liquidity posts digital photos and offers buyers the option of inspecting the items at the storage locations. The company also keeps an audit trail, tracking what happens to the electronics.

Agencies can dispose of property through General Services Administration auctions, but GSA does not track the equipment or consider environmental concerns.

Currently, the GWACs do not apply to states' recycling efforts. For instance, Maryland, part of EPA Region 3, has many federal government offices, but it has not had funding since December 2002, when a pilot project there ended.

"The only funding we have been able to obtain is through unspent capital project money and supplemental environmental project which was the result of an enforcement action," said Hilary Miller, administrator of the recycling, marketing and operations program at the Maryland Department of the Environment's waste management administration. "I'm not saying that's a good thing or a bad thing because I know it's very new."

Some counties pay for e-cycling themselves. "There's a lot of interest, a lot of desire, and a lot of folks are doing things on their own, without our assistance," Miller said. "We just don't have the funding right now."

In April 2003, the city of Baltimore and Montgomery County, Md., held two e-cycling events for federal agencies using state funding. Electronics collected from federal agencies generated more than 34 tons of materials in Montgomery County.


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