In our latest episode of NothingWasted! Podcast, we chat with John Shegerian, executive chairman and co-founder of Electronic Recyclers International (ERI). With a mission to safeguard organizations, people and the environment, ERI is the largest fully integrated information technology (IT) and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States.
We spoke with Shegerian about growing a business, technology innovations, opportunities in e-waste and more.
Here’s a sneak peek into the discussion:
Waste360: ERI can recycle a billion pounds of electronic waste per year, and you guarantee the data destruction. How did you get there with your facilities, and how have your systems had to adapt over the years?
John Shegerian: We started in California and looked at some buildings in areas that needed redevelopment, so we took over a building that ironically had been used and abandoned by the largest rag recycler in the world. We started our journey there, with 70,000 square feet. We wondered how we would ever fill this space, but within six months, we were so overloaded we had electronics sitting in our parking lot. We said, “Oh my gosh, we’re on to something here.” Today, we have over a million and a half square feet across the United States. Now, we’re constantly looking for new space. And we have to keep reinventing ourselves to handle all the new types of electronics coming in.
Waste360: What percentage of e-waste do you think goes unrecycled—is there a way to quantify that?
John Shegerian: The e-waste that’s being handled by responsible recyclers—that should all go toward beneficial reuse. Zero waste, zero landfill, zero emissions. But how much e-waste is the U.S. really producing? Nobody knows, unfortunately. And some is still going to landfills or being shipped overseas. The problem is huge. It’s still the fastest-growing solid waste stream in the world. And we need solutions.
Waste360: Are you starting to see manufacturers think about end-of-life when they create devices?
John Shegerian: Yes, companies are actually sending their engineers into our facilities to see if they are making devices too difficult to recycle. Manufacturers are really getting involved, which is a great trend to see.