Company Profile: GreenMouse Recycling
PROFILE — By on May 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm
“Recycling is more than just dropping it off and having it magically disappear,” said Evelyn O’Donnell, CEO of GreenMouse Recycling in San Jose, Calif. California recycling legislation makes it simple for consumers to recycle potentially hazardous electronic materials, such as older CRT computer monitors, with programs that offer incentives to collectors and recyclers. But making it easy for consumers doesn’t mean the collector’s job is done for them.
“While consumers are able to drop off components without cost to them, the e-waste must still be recycled responsibly – there are rules and regulations, many categories of red tape and bureaucracy. The general public is unaware of our challenges in making a small electronics recycling company run efficiently. I know I once was.”
Prior to opening the e-waste collection business in 2004, O’Donnell had been involved in many charitable organizations in the Silicon Valley and was looking to develop a second career in a purpose-driven enterprise. “I’d worked in high-tech marketing and sales, and I’d never really thought about where e-waste went,” she said. Like so many people, she just figured it went ‘away’ and she no longer had to be concerned with it. “I had no idea where all this stuff went and when I found out, it opened up whole new world for me.”
GreenMouse Recycling, based in near Highway 101 in San Jose, collects discarded electronics for recycling on-site, at businesses and through special collection events to aid non-profits. Today her challenges include educating the general public that there is no magic way to dispose of discarded electronics.
“Our responsibility continues even after the e-waste goes to the recycler. We ensure government rules and regulations are adhered to long after the materials have left our docks,” O’Donnell said
Her other communications challenges focus on the public’s widely held misperception that broken computers being processed by children in developing nations such as India and China. “While that may happen in some small degree, California rules in particular require us as collectors to assure e-waste is recycled in a legal manner and is monitored by third party organizations.
“Everything goes to China eventually,” she said, “but only long after the materials have been processed into a near raw state.”
In founding the company, O’Donnell’s vision was to create a purpose-driven company that would also provide sustainable employment and training to disadvantaged adults. The company now has 10 employees, and is at a comfortable level, she said.
Being small has certain advantages, she related. She knows many of the contracts and needs of her clients herself, and fears she will lose that one-on-one touch as her business grows. As she prepares to expand out of her 4,500 feet of high-roof industrial space, she is looking for ways to retain the personal, hands-on experience the customer receives from her firm. Among her plans are a learning center and e-waste museum, not a least of which includes a near complete collection of Apple computers from the early 1980s, most of which are still functional. Her idea is to make recycling friendly, memorable and approachable; something she feels is unavailable through larger, more corporate alternatives.
“We’re starting with the children, for example,” she said. “We hope to instill life-long habits of sustainable environmental stewardship.
In addition, she says GreenMouse has another strategic competitive advantage. “When people ask if we can do something, we say, “Yes” first, and then figure out how to make it happen.”