Reduce, reuse … and shred: Recycling firm offers data destruction

E-Waste Recyclers
Ken Burns, co-owner of E-Waste Recyclers of Colorado, demonstrates the operation of a machine that shreds computer hard drives. The Grand Junction company has added data destruction to the services it offers in processing electronics, including computers. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Repeatedly punching the delete key won’t permanently erase data from a computer. Shredding the hard drive into so much metal confetti, on the other hand, assures certain destruction of electronic files, including confidential financial and medical records.

Given the growing threat of theft of sensitive data and increasingly stringent laws regulating electronic recordkeeping, Ken Burns expects data destruction to become a popular addition to the recycling services his fast-growing Grand Junction company offers. The new service has shifted the focus of the operation from not only protecting the environment, Burns said, but also his clients.

Burns and his brother-in-law, Jeffery Ferguson, operate E-Waste Recyclers of Colorado. The company accepts most materials at no charge and processes nearly everything that plugs into an outlet or runs on batteries, including cell phones, computers, copiers and other office equipment.

Electronics that don’t work are dismantled to salvage the various metals used in their construction: aluminum, copper, steel and even the small amounts of gold found in high-grade circuit boards.

The company Burns and Ferguson launched with only a Web site, storage unit and a few tools has grown substantially over the past year and recently moved into an 8,000-square foot facility on South Seventh Street.

E-Waste Recyclers now processes more than 5,000 pounds of electronic waste a day, said Steve Attarian, who handles sales and marketing for the firm.

In addition to recycling,  the company refurbishes and resells a small portion of the electronics it processes, particularly computers.

When the company reuses the hard drives in computers, it eliminates data left on those drives in a multiple-step process that’s been certified by the Department of Defense.

When the old hard drives are too small or obsolete, however, it makes more sense to simply shred them and install new drives, Burns said.

The shredder also accommodates those customers who request the destruction of hard drives, tapes and other devices that store electronic data.

E-Waste Recyclers offers data destruction services at its facility on Seventh Street, but also can transport the shredder to handle on-site destruction for businesses or institutions, such as banks or medical facilities. The shredder can destroy up to 600 hard drives in an hour.

An electronic scanner quickly records the serial numbers of hard drives. Customers receive documentation certifying those hard drives have been destroyed, Attarian said.

At a time when identity theft and fraud have become growing concerns, it’s important to securely destroy electronic records when they’re no longer needed, Attarian said. That’s particularly true for records that include the names, birth dates and Social Security numbers of people.

What’s more, laws have become increasingly stringent in regulating  financial and medical recordkeeping and requiring safeguards to prevent the theft of confidential information, Attarian said. Companies face stiff penalties and litigation for data breaches. “They put teeth in it. They put enforcement in it,” he said.

That’s not to mention the additional costs of notifying individuals who are potentially involved and monitoring their credit to make sure identity theft doesn’t occur.

It’s not just computers and computer hard drives that pose risks, Attarian said. Many printers, copiers and fax machines also include hard drives that store information. Cell phones and so-called thumb drives also can contain confidential information.

Secure data destruction offers a convenient and inexpensive solution to that problem, he added.

To offer even more assurance to its customers, E-Waste Recyclers has joined the National Association of Information Destruction (NAID), an international trade association for companies that provide information destruction services. E-Waste Recyclers is in the process of obtaining NAID certification, meaning it will undergo independent audits to assure it complies with national policies and procedures for information destruction.

E-Waste Recyclers also is in the process of obtaining what’s called responsible recycling, or R 2, certification. Meeting those guidelines will enable the firm to work for any client across the country, Attarian said. “It just broadens our market and proves our processes.”

Electronics recycling and data destruction constitute good businesses. But Burns said his company also serves an important function in addressing the growing problem of disposing of obsolete computers and other devices, keeping potentially hazardous materials out of landfills and safeguarding confidential information.

In that way, E-Waste Recyclers protects the environment and its clients, he said.