Thousands of computers head toward recycler

Computer recycler Intechra, which recently opened a 76,000-square-foot facility in Stead, expects to process several hundred thousand computers each year at its new site.

Intechra, headquartered at Ridgeland, Miss., looked at locating its West Coast recycling facility in California before settling on its Moya Drive location, Chief Operating Officer Jim Mills says.

"The business climate in California is not one we would prefer to do business in," Mills says. "Reno gives us the advantage of being close, yet having a very positive business environment."

Intechra recycles and refurbishes used computer equipment, but the main asset it provides to customers is data security, says General Manager Brian Beinfest. When customers upgrade their computers and sell old models to Intechra, the company removes all sensitive data off the machines.

"Our primary mission is data security," Mills says. "We absolutely guarantee that."

A detailed tracking and reporting system lets clients know when their old computers were packaged, shipped, received, and processed at the Intechra facility. Companies pay a fee for each machine to be "cleaned." The tracking system allows customers to follow an old machine from the time it leaves their office to the moment its hard drive is erased at Intechra.

If the equipment is salable, Intechra refurbishes and repackages it, and shares a portion of sales proceeds with the client. Typical refurbishment includes a data wipe, and adding new memory or a larger-capacity hard drive.

Refurbished computers typically are resold through brokers throughout the United States but Intechra also resells a small percentage of the refurbished equipment to individuals through its Web site.

Units that can't be resold are disassembled and sold as parts. Motherboards, power supplies, hard drives, media drives all are boxed and sold in bulk to vetted resellers who strip the parts for precious metals, such as copper, gold or aluminum.

"We sell it down to the bone the metals, the plastics, the memory and the processors," Beinfest says.

About 60 percent of the machines received at the facility will be disassembled.

Intechra only sells computer parts to a select list of clients to ensure that materials don't end up in landfills once they are stripped of precious metals.

"We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year auditing the people that buy scrap from us," Beinfest says. "We want to make sure these scrap vendors, three, four, five processes downstream are doing the right thing. We don't just flip it to the highest bidder."

Intechra's Reno facility won't be operational until May, but the company began hiring warehouse and line workers in March. Intechra had mock manifests drawn up on dozens of pallets of junked computer equipment, and shipped the equipment to the Reno warehouse to train workers in its methods of processing, disassembly, data-erasure and refurbishment.

Currently, about 30 workers have been hired, and Intechra plans to double its workforce once the warehouse is fully operational.

Production workers don't need any special environmental certifications because they aren't stripping hazardous materials off the equipment, Beinfest says.

Capital investments and training costs at the site were in excess of $1 million, Mills says. Intechra signed a five-year lease at the site.

Intechra has additional recycling centers in Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Hartford, Conn., and Merimac, Tenn. The Reno facility is the first recycling center built from the ground up as other sites came through company acquisition, Mills says.


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