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Earth-smart technology Featured

9:11am EDT January 27, 2006
When it’s time to ditch your company’s obsolete computers, it’s no longer as simple as putting them in a trashcan.

“When the EPA got hold of (a company that did that) and fined them $5 million, everyone else got onto the program rather quickly,” says Sepp Rajaie, CEO of Tech Disposal, a technology retirement solution provider.

TechDisposal, which posted nearly $4 million in revenue in 2005, processes more than 50 million pounds of IT equipment annually, with none of it going into landfills.

Smart Business spoke with Rajaie about how he grows his company by staying true to his environmental promise and keeping customer information secure.

How do you implement these technology retirement processes while staying environmentally sound?
We know all the laws that we have to follow. We just make sure that everyone that we hire gets trained properly so they follow those guidelines.

We make sure that all of the equipment gets dismantled. Plastic goes in one place, and there are people who buy the plastic and haul it away. There are people who buy the glass, and there are people who buy the circuit boards. The food chain keeps going lower and lower to the point that nothing really goes to the landfill.

If there’s a need for all these parts, there’s a sort of value recovery through companies that do nothing except cover microchips from the circuit boards. You could take the plastic and turn it into other uses or make additional parts for the same equipment. The recycling idea works, so that’s what we try to promote.

How do you ensure tart the people who buy those parts have the same kind of green focus?
(We) make sure that those people are also responsible, that they don’t end up sending all of this stuff into the landfill. We’ve got to make sure that they’re legitimate partners. (We visit) their facilities.

We have vendor profiling that asks certain questions. Those that want to be a part of this have to fill those out, and the ones that don’t, we don’t do business with them. It’s not just calling XYZ and telling them to come and pick these up. They’ve got to meet our guidelines, and they’ve got to sign on the dotted line.

How do you reassure TechDisposal clients about the security of the data remaining on their computers?
(Clients) have two issues on their radar screen. No. 1 is that the data and the information (on their old computers) is wiped and not accessible through any means, and No. 2 is environmental issues. Out of 100 percent, those two add up to about 80 percent.

We have proprietary software that destroys the information on the drive and prints a certificate of destruction ... that the drive has been wiped. We (send) a notification that the information has been wiped to the Department of Defense (DoD.)

The DoD 5220 is a (guideline) of acceptant performance on wiping drives that’s becoming standardized throughout the country. That means there’s no way you could gather any more information from because it rewrites the drive up to 12 times and doesn’t allow anything to be retrieved.

What has been your biggest growth challenge, and how do you manage it?
Growth is, at times, very painful. You grow to a certain extent ,and then you have to slow down and make sure that your infrastructure is sound. Make sure that the marketing (department) is meeting their goals.

We constantly look at ways to make this process faster and better, and how do we implement it, how do we reward (employees), and how do we expand upon (these processes.) These things are all issues you’ve got to deal with.

Maybe it’s easier going from $2 million to $4 million or $4 million to $6 million, but going from $6 million to $12 million is not going to be as easy. Maybe you go from $6 million to $10 million, stay there for a year or two, and then go from $10 million to $50 million. You can’t keep a constant growth of that percentage.

We spent a lot of time in 2005 building infrastructure and systems, so our growth wasn’t as fast as the year prior to that. We’re hoping this year to have much more growth percentagewise.

The bottom line is we get paid by the client. At the end of the day, the client has to be happy, and if we’re keeping them happy, we’re going to be in business. If they’re not happy, we’re going to be out of business. It’s very simple.

HOW TO REACH: TechDisposal, (877) 770-8324, ext. 125, or www.techdisposal.com