|Arman Sadeghi of All Green Electronics Recycling takes a slightly different approach to business. Photos: Bruce Morr|
Decision makers at companies, institutions and government offices throughout America always face a two-pronged decision when discarding obsolete office electronics: How do we discard this equipment so it is handled securely and so we receive any recycling/reuse value for it?
Arman Sadeghi, founder and CEO of All Green Electronics Recycling, Tustin, Calif., has a background in information technology (IT) and was familiar with computers and computer equipment before he started All Green.
Part of what prompted Sadeghi to get into the business, he says, was the 2008 60 Minutes report that exposed sub-standard electronics recycling practices involving the export of obsolete electronics to overseas destinations where unsafe disassembly practices occurred.
“I had never been in the recycling or security side until I saw a report on 60 Minutes,” says Sadeghi. “I wanted to see if it was something I could advance.” Four years later, Sadeghi leads a company with 145 employees, three facilities and several additional sales offices in different parts of the country.
Designing a Model
After the 60 Minutes report instilled the passion within Sadeghi to address electronics recycling practices, among his next steps was to create a business model that could help him distinguish his company from others.
“When I first looked into this business, I found the split model, where revenue is earned from the sale of items and commodities on the back end and customers also are charged up front to discard material,” says Sadeghi, who had a criticism of that model. “Charging for a service means companies are less likely to use it. Many would opt, if they could, to dump [obsolete electronics] in the trash,” he says.
As he created All Green, Sadeghi sought to eliminate that disincentive to recycle. “My model is free on the front end, and we’ll make what we make on the back end.”
When it comes to information security, however, Sadeghi says he determined that was a service that sometimes would have to come at a cost (to be done well) and that customers understood the value of paying for it. “We do charge for the data destruction and sanitization on site—that’s where there are upfront fees.
Once electronics are in hand, All Green has a number of decisions to make, says Sadeghi. “Our model is set up so that we follow the reduce, reuse, recycle method,” he comments. “If there are components that are able to be reused and our clients are OK with that, then we do that. But if they have requested product destruction, then we do not pursue that option.”
Sadeghi estimates that about 40 percent of the company’s inbound material stream (whether entire units or components) is reused while the remaining 60 percent enters All Green’s end-of-life recycling system.
Regarding its recycling methods, Sadeghi says, “Most of our process involves doing a very elaborate sort prior to any shredding; that allows us to not have to charge customers on the front end. When we do actually recycle, then we get cleaner commodities.”
He continues, “Many competitors may sort into five or six categories. We sort into 42 categories, everything ranging from remote controls to TVs that are 10 years old or older. We make a point to really separate.”
Sadeghi says the thorough separation process, while involving some work that other competitors may not undertake, provides the benefits of achieving maximum reuse levels and creating upgraded secondary commodities after shredding.
Prompted to create All Green by safety concerns for overseas workers, Sadeghi soon discovered that a different type of safety also was important to his business—the safety of sensitive information found on hard drives and other devices of which his company takes possession.
All Green Electronics Recycling at a Glance
Principals: Arman Sadeghi, founder and CEO
Locations: Tunstin, Calif. (headquarters and facility); two additional processing facilities in Sacramento, Calif., and Las Vegas; offices in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Orlando, Portland, Ore., and West Sacramento, Calif.
No. of Employees: 145
Services Provided: Full-service provider of electronics recycling, IT asset disposition and data destruction services, including digital data wiping of hard drives and mechanical shredding. Electronics obtained can be reused or recycled, depending on customer specifications.
Equipment: Shredders made by UNTHA and Kristu; custom-designed trucks from ShredSupply
Certifications: e-Stewards, Responsible Recycling Practices (R2) and ISO 14001
It is a risk that many institutions, government agencies and business owners are aware of, but not all of them, says Sadeghi. “In our research, we’re finding that business owners don’t have a really good sense of data security and how it works. You’d think IT managers would know, but most of them don’t even know exactly the risks that are out there with data security. Most people are under the false pretense that deleting the data from a hard drive or formatting the drive means you’ve wiped that hard drive. But as has been proven time and time again, that is not the case.”
Even while awareness of computer hard drive security may have increased, those discarding electronics are not always aware that other types of equipment contain sensitive data.
“The obvious one is cell phones,” says Sadeghi. “But copy machines, fax machines and printers these days are becoming more advanced and now have some sort of internal memory. Some copy machines now have full-sized hard drives that store all sorts of information. Some types of documents offices are scanning or faxing have delicate information on them.”
Regarding cell phones and their successor smart phones, Sadeghi notes, “Mobile devices now have not just phone numbers, but we’re browsing the Internet with them and we have e-mail on them. So they have a person’s contacts and often passwords to bank accounts and other sensitive information. It’s almost as if someone gets a hold of a cell phone, especially for a business, they have access to that business’s contact lists and can create a security problem.”
When such a device is in the wrong hands, it can provide access to credit card information, a Social Security number, a home and work address or even a mother’s maiden name, leading to access to credit lines. “All that information that credit card companies use to obtain identity,” says Sadeghi, “can be obtained from various devices.”
All Green’s data security services include a free assessment for companies to see if their data security standards are up to speed. “We can get an idea of what they’re currently doing,” says Sadeghi. “You find once in a while that some companies are doing it the right way, but we certainly find that many others are not.”
All Green offers hard drive degaussing services as well as hard drive shredding, which Sadeghi calls “by far the most secure way to destroy data.” All Green acquired a $500,000 truck “built to Department of Defense (DOD) standards,” according to Sadeghi. “We can send it out to any site, and customers can observe their hard drives being shredded.”
Recently, All Green has added a portable hard drive shredder that it rents or leases to clients. The company delivers this machine to its client’s facility, and the client can shred hard drives and other media using the simple infeed without the assistance of an All Green employee. This allows clients to destroy sensitive data in the security of their facilities without an outsider being present. All Green then picks up the shredder and the shredded material when the job has been completed.
For hard drives that can be sold to the reuse market, All Green offers “triple-pass and seven-pass hard drive wipes,” says Sadeghi. “Those are very secure and can be almost as secure as shredding. The drive is hooked up to a machine and it erases and rewipes the disk several times,” he explains. “The reason for the seven passes is that many years ago the DOD stated that that’s what they felt was necessary, and it has stuck.”
A Good Start
Since being created in 2008, All Green Electronics Recycling has grown to meet and exceed Sadeghi’s expectations for the company.
“I had some big goals and big dreams when I started,” he comments. “At this point, it’s interesting to look at where we thought we’d be. In some places we’re ahead, and in others we haven’t reached our goal.”
One goal that has been met, says Sadeghi, is the number of people put to work. “We thought we’d be at 100-plus employees at the start of 2012 and we were at 125.”
The company’s work force is engaged in many different endeavors and can be found in many different parts of the country.
As far as near-term goals and expansion opportunities, Sadeghi says, “For 2012, we’re continuing to pay attention to growing our client base. Our focus is going to be to have, by the end of 2012, 16 trucks in the fleet, which can help us cover the entire country. The second goal is to reach some new markets with new sorting or processing facilities, including Dallas and Washington, D.C. We’re also looking at the Midwest—possibly the St. Louis area.”
Sadeghi says the expertise the company has cultivated in data security has helped it offer services that are attractive to larger national customers and others with considerable volumes of equipment to be discarded.
“I think our focus on data security is something that has been a big part of what we’ve accomplished,” he says. “Because of my background as having been an IT director with several companies, I understand the value of the data.”
More than assurance, Sadeghi says All Green has created a system that allows customers to understand the status of their information’s security. “We’ve tried to make the process as streamlined as possible,” he remarks.
“One of the things we provide is to track the serial number, make and model of both the hard drive and the computer from which it is extracted, as well as the name of the employee who used it and the method of destruction,” says Sadeghi. “We provide that in an Excel spreadsheet to the customer along with a certificate of destruction and legal indemnification,” he adds.
Sadeghi is convinced the methodology has been appreciated by customers and has helped All Green’s business. “It sets the customers’ mind at ease,” he comments. “They can know exactly when a computer was destroyed and that it was done right.”
In just a few years, Arman Sadeghi and All Green Electronics Recycling have moved from a notion to enter a business to a national company with 145 employees and room to grow.
The author is editorial director of Recycling Today and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.