Responsible Recycling: A Local Woman's Dream Becomes a Thriving Business
President and founder Karrie Gibson started Vintach Tech Recyclers out of her home in 2005.
By the close of 2010, Vintage Tech Recyclers will have recycled 10 million pounds of electronics in just one year. Based in Romeoville, the company offers free or low-cost electronics recycling programs to government, schools and residents in Romeoville and communities throughout Illinois.
Vintage Tech president Karrie Gibson said she started the company from her home in 2005 after she was disappointed by a former boss who, she believed, wasn't recycling responsibly. Gibson has a computer science degree, but said she realized her knowledge was outdated when she sought to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to raise her three children.
"I didn't want to go back to school, so I started my own recycling company," Gibson said. "I made the pick-ups, I worked on taking the electronics apart and I made my own schedule."
Gibson immediately began writing a business plan for responsible recycling, and four months later received a grant from the Department of Congress and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Vintage Tech Recyclers has since received five additional grants from the DCEO.
The initial DCEO grant allowed Gibson to open her business in Plainfield. In May, Vintage Tech Recyclers moved from its 6,600-square-foot space in Plainfield to its new 20,000-square-foot facility in Romeoville.
"We are a very proud grant recipient," Gibson said. "We have grown our collection in weight by 40 percent year after year due to these funds, and now we have created and support 22 full-time employees, seven part-time employees and offer 401Ks and health insurance."
In its first year of business, Vintage Tech Recyclers recycled 80,000 pounds of electronics. The company accepts most electronics, from computers to printers and cell phones. A list of accepted items is available online at www.vintagetechrecyclers.com.
"A general rule of thumb is we do not accept anything with Freon, like dehumidifiers and refrigerators," Vintage Tech Account Service Consultant Megan Bistry said.
The company's focus is to keep electronics out of landfills.
"Our process is responsible and convenient," Gibson said. "We recover everything we can, including metals and plastics."
Romeoville residents can drop off their outdated electronics from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the first Saturday of the month. A complete list of local collection sites including dates, times and contact information is also listed on the company's website.
Romeoville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bridget Domberg said she used Vintage Tech Recyclers to dispose of her home computer, adding the drop-off procedure was easy.
"As we all upgrade our technology on a regular basis, a service of this nature is vital to avoid having these items end up in landfills," Domberg said. "We know they are not biodegradable, but in the past, it was a challenge to find the appropriate method of disposal."
Once Vintage Tech receives an outdated machine, employees dismantle the product, sort all of its parts and then send the parts and pieces out to be smelted and recycled. The smelting plant melts the parts back into their original state and sends them to a factory to be reused to make other products.
"Because of the support that we have received from DCEO, we have been able to create some of the best and most convenient responsible electronic recycling programs in Illinois," Gibson said.
Vintage Tech Recyclers has a fleet of five vehicles to cover the demand of pick up and disposal. Manufacturers are also asking the company to reach out to other states, Gibson said.
"This is exciting for us because we added 15 jobs this year and because we are continuing to help consumers who do not have a solution," she added.
"The story on this company is so inspiring on how one person can make such an impact in her lifetime," Domberg said. "Because of Karrie's commitment and leadership, within a few short years, Vintage Tech Recyclers is now slated to dispose of approximately half of the technology waste for Illinois."