How a Five-Gallon Bucket Is Changing the World
Adding a small, five-gallon bucket to your workplace can change the world in more ways than you can imagine. Just ask Metallic Resources – headquartered in Twinsburg, Ohio, with operations in Mexico and China. For forty years, it has been recycling solder dross consisting of tin, lead and other materials through an electrolytic refining process to generate solder products more pure than supposed “virgin grade.”
Tin is a constituent element found in many different solder alloys. While extracting tin from the earth takes an environmental toll, it can also have social ones as well. In places like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), war chests are fueled through the sale of conflict materials, such as tin, leading to unnecessary deaths and countless human rights violations. In response to concerns that the exploitation and trade of conflict minerals by armed groups is helping finance conflict in the DRC region, the U.S. Congress passed The Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, forcing many public American companies to reveal their supply chains, showing who may be inadvertently funding bloody conflicts through their purchase of tin (among other conflict minerals).
To help combat these social injustices and assist customers in their compliance with The Dodd-Frank Act, all tin produced by Metallic Resources is certified to be Conflict-Free. Each year, Metallic Resources undergoes an audit by the Responsible Minerals Initiative to assure conformance with the Tin Protocol for the Responsible Minerals Assurance Process (formerly Conflict-Free Smelter Program). As a result of its efforts, Metallic Resources is one of only two smelter-refiners in North America reported in Apple’s supply chain.
Industry and societal desire for conflict-free tin has led to increased demand for Metallic Resources’ recycled tin and other solder products. “We’re excited about the strong enthusiasm for recycled tin produced from our electrolytic refining process,” says Stanley Rothschild, Jr., President of Metallic Resources. “We’ve been doing this for going on forty years. To see where we are now, as a global company providing material all over the world, just shows how far we’ve been fortunate to come since our company’s humble beginnings.”
The company was founded in 1979 by Stanley Rothschild, Sr., who had an innovative vision on how to recycle and purify scrap solder material using electrolytic refining techniques. Back then, the goal was just to be as resourceful as possible. Since then, his vision has expanded beyond resourcefulness to encapsulate global sustainability – which is at the core of Metallic Resources’ current values. Though Stanley Sr. passed away in 2017, his sons Stanley Jr. and Chad Rothschild (the company’s Vice President of Financial and Legal Affairs) have sustained his legacy and continue to build upon it.
Metallic Resources is one of the largest recycler-manufacturers of solder materials in the United States, and is helping companies around the world move toward a more peaceful, sustainable future while providing the highest-grade solder in the industry. As Sales Manager Jeff Giles puts it: “Metallic Resources is an industry leader in the refining, processing and generation of recycled solder and tin. No one does this better than us or in the volumes we do.
Metallic Resources loans five-gallon buckets for customers to fill with contaminated or scrap solder. In return, it offers cash or replaces solder, pound-for-pound, for a small fee. “Whereas a lot of competitors can generally only pay cash value at a percentage of market price, we’re unique in that, for a nominal fee, we can return clean solder to customers in exchange for their scrap or contaminated solder,” says Chad. “This helps our customers and their cash-flow situations tremendously because they’re not having to buy more solder, at a markup over market prices, to replace their contaminated solder (which they usually sell at a percentage of market price).”
Companies do not have to fill their buckets with solder only and can even send in old circuit boards and other e-scrap, though Metallic Resources does not deal directly with e-scrap processing, but outsources it by “working with other companies to make sure those are recycled responsibly. This is a value-added service for our customers.” Adds Giles: “A trusted and globally responsible recycling service provider removes a great deal of risk / fear from our customers, to give them peace of mind that things are being handled correctly and responsibly.”
It is all part of its founders’ greater vision to be as sustainable as possible. “We view ourselves as a closed-loop company where we try to either consume, use, or sell everything that we bring into the company,” says Stan Jr. “It’s important for the Metallic Resources brand and important to us since it is our father’s legacy. This was his life’s work and something he was most passionate about. We always keep that in mind as we continue to drive the company forward and grow it in a sustainable manner.”
In addition to its recycling capabilities, Metallic Resources also prides itself in selling some of the purest solder materials on the market. In general, solder comes in three grades: reclaimed, virgin, and electrolytic. Reclaimed solder is the lowest grade, since the reclaimer simply takes contaminated metal, smelts the dross off, recasts it and sells it. When sold, however, the reclaimed metal keeps its previous contaminants. Virgin grade solder is made up of tin and other metals straight from the mine. While virgin grade has traditionally been thought of as the purest grade, in fact the third and best grade of solder is electrolytic solder.
Metallic Resources was a pioneer of manufacturing electrolytic solder – the purest form of solder available from any source – through the use of electroplating techniques used in brass plating, copper plating, gold plating, or silver plating. This advanced method enables Metallic Resources to remove impurities from solder metal, resulting in fewer contaminants than tin and lead sourced from a mine. Using these techniques, Metallic Resources can create either tin-lead or lead-free alloys.
“We are able to remove virtually all of the impurities from solder material. The result is something even more pure than virgin grade,” explains Chad. Adds Stan Jr.: “There’s a misconception that electrolytic solder is not as good or not as pure as virgin solder because it is recycled, but that’s simply not the case. In fact, just the opposite is true, as Metallic Resources is able to assure batch to batch consistency with only infinitesimally small variance, unlike virgin grade solders.” In fact, Metallic Resources’ bar solder is typically more pure by a factor of at least ten times compared to any other solder available from any source.
This proprietary refining system results in solder exhibiting lower viscosity and surface tension in addition to greater fluidity. “These characteristics reduce bridging, icycling, cobwebbing, flagging, and solder voiding while enhancing desirable properties such as superior wetting and wicking and brighter, shinier solder joints,” says Stan Jr. Beyond that, “the purity of Metallic Resources’ solder results in less dross generation,” adds Chad.
Metallic Resources can offer all of this for prices that generally beat the competition. According to Giles: “Many of the services that Metallic Resources provides are very important to the electronic manufacturing industry. Better pricing enables our customers to provide more services at lower costs to their customers without compromising quality. In fact, a higher quality solder material can increase our customers’ chances of landing more customers of their own.”
In servicing the electronics industry, tin-lead solder (specifically consisting of 63 percent tin and 37 percent lead) has traditionally been the go-to solder. Recently, however, suppliers have been racing to innovate lead-free products that are equally effective, at a competitive price. For the most part, innovations have centered on replacing tin-lead alloys with a lead-free “alternative that mimics the properties of tin-lead solder,” says Chad. “There have been a lot of different attempts to find a product that does that. And we feel that our patented SC995e alloy does that the best.”
SC995e is Metallic Resources’ premier product and is patented in the United States and China. The SC995e alloy consists of 99.5 percent tin and 0.5 percent copper, enhanced with cobalt. “SC995e is a stable alloy that requires less maintenance and work from customers and results in fewer process problems. It’s as good as any non-silver lead-free product on the market.”
Metallic Resources notes that some of its customers prefer using lead-free alloys with silver, but cautions that such alloys are far more expensive due to the high price of silver. As evidence of customers’ preference for lead-free alloys with no silver, Metallic Resources points to its increasing sales of SC995e over the past few years. “Each year we’re selling more and more of it,” says Stan Jr. “It’s getting more market penetration, and customers are using it with much success.”
For Metallic Resources, it is not just about the price or the purity of the solder. The company is fully committed to the worldwide movement toward more sustainable and ethical products. “Our renewability mission is to work with reclaimers globally to reuse, reduce and reclaim metal in order to better serve the environment and just be good stewards of our environment,” says Chad.
Mining has a checkered history of environmental and social degradation. The Earth’s resources, including its metallurgy deposits, are finite. When companies choose to buy recycled metals such as those available from Metallic Resources, the negative impact on the planet is lessened. “We’re trying to do our part to remove pollution and protect against the negative effects that electronic scrap and its components can have on the Earth’s air, water, soil. Keeping these types of materials out of landfills is a high priority of ours,” according to Giles. Indeed, Metallic Resources is audited every year under ISO 9001 and 14001. ISO 14001 in particular has strict environmental regulations that the company passes with flying colors.
Businesses sourcing tin from companies like Metallic Resources are also driven by a desire to purchase ethical, Conflict-Free tin. The Dodd-Frank Act gave customers the power to boycott businesses that bought conflict minerals from unethical sources. People around the world already support recycling household items, and nobody wants to fund wars. In a technological future, recycled tin is the next logical step. All it takes is a five-gallon bucket to transform a company and the world.