Electrical equipment recyclers and surplus dealers are frequently lumped into discussions of the electrical industry “gray market” but they'd like to be seen in a different light — as key players in the industry's green market, instead. The difficulties of changing the color of the industry's perceptions were highlighted in discussions at the annual Electrical Safety and Reliability Conference, a gathering of members and affiliates of the Professional Electrical Apparatus Recyclers League (PEARL) in downtown Denver in April.

PEARL members have been campaigning since the organization's inception 14 years ago to improve the industry's understanding of the aftermarket and gain respect for the companies that serve the needs of distributors and end users with used, surplus, reconditioned, refurbished and remanufactured electrical equipment. PEARL has made progress, but the ultimate goal of gaining the open acceptance of electrical product manufacturers and distributors remains elusive.

The conference overall was up-beat. Dealers reported that the recession is still affecting business activity in the surplus market — there is plenty of material out there to buy, they said, but sales opportunities continue to lag.

Brian Corekin, president of Monster Fuses, Portland, Ore., and current president of PEARL, highlighted the organization's progress toward raising the standards of surplus dealers, including possible site inspection and training certification requirements that members will have to meet and keep current in order to keep their membership.

Corekin is promoting initiatives to emphasize PEARL members' role as a provider of green services and their ability to supply hard-to-find products to distributors trying to keep their own inventories as lean as possible.

Tom Grace, manager of anti-counterfeiting initiatives for Eaton Corp., Cleveland, engaged PEARL members in a lively back-and-forth discussion aimed at clarifying what is considered the gray market and what is not. Grace made it clear that he considers reconditioning and recycling valuable roles in the industry, but sought the surplus dealers' help in making aftermarket sources of supply more transparent.

PEARL will gather next year in Portland, Ore.