ERI: Making the World a Better Place, One Electronic Device at a Time

ERI processes electronic waste in an environmentally responsible way in eight certified locations serving every zip code in the United States. Apart from IT and electronics asset disposition services, data destruction and cybersecurity the company continues to follow its “Green is Good” motto and maintains a core commitment to sustainability and the environment. Empowered by its mission to protect people, businesses and the planet, the company, spurred by innovation, is prepared to deal with the growing heaps of e-waste working through the global waste stream.

The four founders of ERI: Kevin Dillon, Tammy Shegerian, John Shegerian and Aaron Blum (from left to right) – Photo: ERI

These days, the saying “the quicker, the better” applies to almost everything – from mass media to various industry sectors, particularly with consumer electronic devices. Every day, this trend is reflected in the ways those devices are being improved, boosted and adjusted to the needs and wishes of the customers. Constantly, users are confronted with faster, sleeker smartphones, more efficient laptops or more advanced tablets. Hence, electronic equipment which does not fit into the format of the newest technology ends up being discarded and replaced by the latest and greatest devices on the market. The mindset to discover new gadgets without consideration for the enormous waste stream that comes along with this trend results in large amounts of unwanted electronic waste full of harmful components such as lead, cadmium and mercury, which end up in landfills. Companies that are working toward sustainability goals and trying to establish an image of environmental responsibility are already reacting to the modern surge of e-waste and are looking for ways to have their unwanted or out-of-date electronics recycled responsibly. This ambition leads in the right direction, but what about the sensitive and private data those devices still contain? And how can the desire for sustainability as well as an adherence to circular economy principles be satisfied while dealing with the data privacy issue and the overall swelling waves of e-waste in general?

These are the questions that matter most to the US-based company, ERI. The enterprise is a fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company. Its mission is to safeguard organizations, people and the environment through fighting against hardware hacking and providing an efficient and sustainable method of gaining control over the constantly growing glut of e-waste. The whole concept of ERI’s work goes back to 2002 when Aaron Blum started a small recycling company. Two years later Blum partnered with his friend, social entrepreneur John Shegerian. Both were keen on the idea of recycling electronics and decided to get Shegerian’s wife Tammy and mutual friend Kevin J. Dillon on board to realize their plan. The four became the founders of ERI.

A relocation of the company to Fresno and the establishment of new industry standards such as totally green facilities and customer-friendly transparent tracking systems led to a series of problem-solving innovations and steady, continuous growth. The founders decided to expand the business to different areas in the U.S. In 2007 Massachusetts was chosen as the place for the second facility. Afterward, more facilities in Colorado, Indiana, Texas, and Washington followed. Today, ERI has established eight certified facilities with the total capacity to process more than a billion pounds of electronic waste annually, servicing every zip code in the US.

Expansion of services and facilities

Photo: ERI

Even though ERI initially solely focused on end-of-life electronics at first, over time, IT asset disposition (ITAD) was added to the company’s range of services. The process refers to the secure and responsible reusing and recycling of redundant and discarded electronic assets. In general, every organization has the responsibility to conform to both federal and state laws with regard to data S\security, information privacy, and environmental protection. ERI pays close attention to address those issues to help protect its clients’ reputations and prevent costly fines which come with regulatory violations.

After its expansion of services and placement of facilities throughout the U.S., the company did not stand still. Due to ERI’s wish for more effective shredders and to meet growing demand, the company decided to design its own machines. Today, materials ranging from smartphones and televisions to computers and printers are processed in the company’s innovative, enormous e-scrap shredding system, the largest and most efficient of its kind in the world. Always innovating, ERI’s spectrum of electronics processing technology, techniques, and service delivery methods also include a self-contained flat panel shredder system, patented electronics collection bins and a proprietary CRT glass separation technology.

Bringing e-waste solutions to major cities

Photo: ERI

ERI’s commitment to sustainability and the environment is also reflected in its aim to bring e-waste solutions to major areas such as various major metropolitan areas in the States. Consequently, working directly with ERI, New York City has initiated a citywide e-waste residential collection program called ecycleNYC. The award-winning program has now collected more than 20 million pounds of electronics from New Yorkers for responsible recycling. Similarly, the city of Los Angeles teamed with ERI and started the Electronics Recycling Mail Back Program. As a result, the residents of Los Angeles can now order an ERI Mail Back box online for a small fee. People can use this box to pack up obsolete electronics and send the packages to the city or drop them off at one of the city’s electronics recycling centers.

Fighting Cybercriminals

Every year, a million tons of e-waste is not disposed of properly. Computers, tablets and household appliances end up in landfills, are illegally traded or stockpiled. ERI is aware of those facts and actively works to tackle the significant issues of hardware hacking and data mining by providing solutions for guaranteed data destruction along with responsible recycling practices. A growing and often overlooked threat to society on a global level, has been the emergence of cybercriminals and hackers. They are searching for sensitive data and private information that discarded electronic devices often contain. Thus, it became inevitable – not only for businesses and government agencies, but also for individuals who want to secure their personal data – to make use of responsible and fully integrated ITAD and e-waste recycling services. ERI specializes in the destruction of all data via on-site or mobile, off-site destruction methods and recognizes that it has become essential that outdated devices must be responsibly processed – both in terms of the environment and from a data destruction standpoint. According to ERI’s principles, that process should be done on-site by certified electronic recyclers and should always include complete, physical data destruction. Guaranteed data destruction is key. Some companies believe their data is being wiped when they drop devices off for recycling and that is not always the case. Also, unethical and illegal shipping of e-waste abroad has become an additional layer to the hardware hacking issue because it leads to the wholesale liquidation of national security and the privacy of the corporations and individuals who once used the devices. “Recycling these devices is important, but it must be done the right way,” underlined John Shegerian.

In come the robots

Photo: ERI

Despite the company’s already highly advanced technologies and innovations, ERI continues to introduce industry-changing technological advancements. The latest innovation from the e-waste recycler is its employment of two A.I. driven robots called SAM and ERNIE. These machines are tasked with separating out commodities after the company’s proprietary shredding process.

The company is constantly growing – according to ERI, approximately 10 to 15 percent per year – and the robots help to increase sorting accuracy and free up the other employees to perform ITAD and data wiping services. Hence, SAM and ERNIE help to enhance the sorting efficiencies. Furthermore, the robots can efficiently separate shredded materials such as aluminum, printed circuit boards, yellow brass, capacitors, and copper products into a clean stream. The picking is done via a vacuum system, and the new technology can currently achieve about 70 picks per minute. The company is convinced that artificial intelligence will play a leading role in the future and future plans include that ERI will have added robotics and AI to all of its facilities by next year.

Maintaining transparency

Photo: ERI

One of the most important elements of ERI’s mission is its transparency. “We strive to exhibit the most radical transparency of any recycling company in the world,” says John Shegerian. “We host over 100 in-person audits a year at our facilities by our clients and certifying bodies. And our downstream is the most direct and transparent that has ever been achieved in our industry because two of our minority strategic investors (LS-Nikko Copper and Alcoa) take much of our shredded commodities for beneficial reuse. This allows us to be right in the middle of the Circular Economy while transparently accounting for where all our commodities go.”

In order to further enhance its transparency, the company has developed its own online asset tracking system called MyTrackTech to provide customers with real-time updates on their account activities. The online IT and electronic asset disposition portal is a configurable solution. Moreover, it is securely accessible 24/7 and can export key data on demand, run asset reports, or order services. Through MyTrackTech, the company’s clients can enjoy the benefits of real-time visibility into all aspects of asset disposition.

With the massive and continuous increase in the amount of e-waste forcing its way into the waste stream, there is no shortage in terms of need for ERI’s services. ERI remains prepared to recycle any type of electronic device – from phones and televisions to computers and printers – and to recycling them in innovative and responsible ways that protect people, companies and the planet.

Photo: ERI

(GR 22019, Page 15-Advertorial)

Photo: ERI