Reuse and recycle
Company keeps devices from going to the landfill
WARREN — The average household in the U.S. contains more than 25 connected devices, according to a study done by global professional services firm Deloitte.
No more than two years ago, Deloitte reported the number was 11. The reason for the explosion is easy: the pandemic. Americans hunkered down at home — people began to work and students began to learn remotely; routine health care shifted to virtual; shut down were movie theaters and other forms of entertainment and leisure, so streaming and gaming services grew.
All that meant more devices. And at some point, it’s inevitable those devices — from smart phones to tablets to computers to smart televisions to gaming consoles and so on — are going to break or become obsolete.
A local company doesn’t let these pieces wind up in a landfill. Instead, the goal of GreenBoard IT is to reuse and recycle.
“There is way more devices in our country than there are people to process them and the real trick to this business is creating single streams of material,” said Wiley Runnestrand, one of GreenBoard IT’s two vice presidents. “The whole point of this business is to take gaylords (huge boxes) of random things that happen to plug into the wall and do things for people in their house and turn those into single streams of recycling.”
The company in May bought the two-story, more than 32,000-square-foot former Berk Enterprises warehouse at 817 Market St. It’s run by Runnestrand of Kent, co-Vice President Mike Martof of Kent, and Chuck George, president, of Canfield.
On a recent day, there were thousands of pounds of tablets, hard drives, game systems, battery backup devices, televisions, monitors and speakers in gaylords ready to be processed into what Runnestrand calls “circles and squares.”
They are sorted by device — data bearing and non-data bearing — and further by whether the device can be reused or is destined to be recycled. Focus material such as battery backup devices or lithium batteries are also sorted into their own controlled stream because of the hazard they present.
“Every data bearing device that comes into this facility has to be sanitized or physically destroyed,” said Runnestrand.
Runnestrand means not sanitized of germs or virus, but scrubbed clean of data.
Non-data bearing devices are recycled. Those that contain data and the focus material are moved to a secure storage area. It’s then determined which of those devices with stored information can be repaired and reused and which need to be recycled.
There is a cutline — if the device has a Pentium processor or older, it’s not worth the effort to salvage and is put in the recycling line.
Priority No. 1 is reuse.
“Our standard is very focused on getting us to reuse the material … me destroying a computer, shredding it, taking it back to virgin material and then melting all of that down and putting it back, even though that is better than mining the earth, I’m putting a lot more energy into that cycle versus if I can repair one of those desktops and sanitize it so your data is not on it,” Runnestrand said.
When it’s determined a device can be repaired and reused — have a future — its data is erased and its components are tested for sufficiency.
“It’s like a very sophisticated version of your diagnostics that a repair shop uses for a vehicle,” Martof said.
If any piece or part fails and the repair is worthwhile, it will be fixed.
GreenBoard IT documents each device was scrubbed of its data or destroyed.
Said Martof: “We take a zero-trust mindset, so we assume that our customers don’t trust us, so we always want to show them, ”Hey, we did what we were supposed to do.'”
The company is in the process of being certified by industry standards.
GreenBoard IT sources the material from several places, but its main focus is working with businesses and people required to have data security — anyone with a customer, anyone who takes a credit card or the health care or legal industries, for example.
They also partner with solid waste districts and communities within about 150-mile radius to coordinate and market drop-off events for consumers who want to rid themselves of unwanted devices. They do that to help consumers avoid what Martof called a “last-mile problem.”
“No one wants to drive 45 miles to a facility to do this,” he said.
Recently, GreenBoard IT partnered with the Youngstown / Warren Regional Chamber to offer its services to chamber members. The company will pick up the electronic waste at the member business’s location for free for most devices.
CRT monitors, printers and televisions typically require recycling fees, but GreenBoard IT has reduced or waived these fees for Chamber members, depending on the pick-up.
The company has already collected more than 30,000 pounds of material. It expects at full-speed to be processing 30,000 to 50,000 pounds a month at the facility. It hopes to employ 10 to 20 people by the middle of 2022.
George, founder and CEO of Youngstown-based Strangpresse, which develops and commercializes thermoplastic extruders used mostly in additive manufacturing, spent about six months looking for just the right facility.
“We concentrated on Warren and Youngstown, but actually looked in Portage County as well,” George said. “Part of the problem when the industry left here in the 80s and 90s, you have buildings in gross stages of deterioration that should be tear-downs that somebody thinks they can sell for a premium price, or you have something that is relatively new that didn’t fit the model.”