In 1999 Dave Long was still working for Rockwell-Goss in Cedar Rapids when he saw the handwriting on the wall. He knew his employment was coming to an end.
“My business partner (Greg Kerr) and I actually started years earlier purchasing surplus equipment in bulk,” Long recalled. “We’d go to companies and offer to buy their surplus equipment to resell on the secondary market. That’s really what our business started out as.”
But while some of their purchases were good, some were bad, and as they set the bad equipments aside, things began to stack up.
“It started to accumulate rather quickly, and I realized that we just could not throw it into the landfill. I knew there had to be a better option,” Long said.
One thing he noticed after visiting sites in surrounding states was that those companies “were just mining the precious metals — they only wanted the good stuff, and they weren’t addressing things like the CRT (cathode-ray-tubes) monitors,” he said.
“One site was just breaking the CRT glass and tossing it into their sheet metal container. They weren’t doing the right thing with the stuff, and I felt we could do a better job than they were so, we started Midwest Electronic Recovery.”
In 2004, through a Solid Waste Alternative Program loan, the state helped him purchase a CRT recycling unit that even today is state of the art.
“It is a HEPA-filter enclosed container that has a hammer mill in it and a magnetic separator, and from that point on our specialty became the proper recycling of CRT TV monitors.”
Long noted that 99.6 percent of the lead content in the glass is recovered and turned back into lead.
Today the company destroys hard drives, tapes and a multitude of other data storage devices into unrecoverable fragments. It employs 25 people and has two sites, the one in Walford and another in Clive.
Last year it launched a mobile shredder truck.
“Many of our customers do not even want their hard drives and discs out of their sight, so we go to the banks or the hospitals and they bring their hard drives out to the truck and actually witness the shredding process on site,” Long said.
The shredded waste does have some value. In the case of hard drives, for example, he explained, “there is aluminum. It’s what we call dirty aluminum, but it will go through a recovery process where it is melted down, impurities filtered out and turned back into usable aluminum once again.”
The company can recover just about everything from plastic to cardboard, but Long said the one thing they can do nothing about is Styrofoam.
“Nobody wants Styrofoam,” he added, “There’s so much of it, but that is one thing we have to consider a waste.”