“Everyone should be data conscious,” says Paul Allen, COO at ISRI member Securis. The information technology asset disposition (ITAD) and electronics recycler has helped clients effectively manage end-of-life electronic devices for almost 20 years, and they don’t plan on stopping.
Securis’ culture helped draw in business development associate Andrew McNeill, who found the company had a great “family-feel” and lives by its core values. Scrap News met with Allen and McNeill to talk more about Securis’ approach to company culture, its commitment to “recycling the right way,” and how the electronics recycling industry has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How did you join Securis and what attracted you to the company?
Andrew McNeill: My background is in sales. Prior to joining Securis I worked in the commercial moving industry. I’d been there for a couple of years, but it was a high-stress environment. During the pandemic I started looking for something different but with a similar business-to-business feel. I learned about Securis from someone I knew from the commercial moving industry who had joined Securis.
I could tell it was a great company when I met everyone. They really practice the company’s core values, which was very attractive to me.
Paul Allen: Jeremy Farber, Securis’ president and owner, contacted me in 2018 to join the company as a contractor. What drew me to the company was our core focus and values. It’s about wanting to recycle the right way. Our mission is to secure and repurpose electronics.
Everyone knows electronics are a growing part of our lives. As the technology changes, the sales cycles get shorter and shorter or faster and faster, and consequently, the need to responsibly recycle these products becomes greater and greater. Securis has a great mission, great purpose, and great people.
There were about 25 people when I started in 2018. Now we’ve got over 70 employees and are looking to expand into a new, larger space. We’ve been able to maintain our culture, which is something I’m very proud of.
Culture sounds like a big part of what attracted you to Securis. Do you see it as a valuable part of the company especially given the industrywide struggles to attract and retain talent?
McNeill: There’s a different feeling at this company; everyone feels like family. I’ve been at larger organizations where you feel more replaceable. But that’s not how it is here.
For example, Paul is our COO, but he still sits in our meetings and he’s very accessible. If I wanted to talk to our owner, Jeremy, that wouldn’t be a problem to arrange. He would hear me out. Management does a good job of listening to employees and is always working to get better.
Allen: It’s not a coincidence that the first part of our purpose concerns serving employees. We support our employees. When personal issues or emergencies arise, we’re here for them. I never want us to lose that connection. It’s a big distinguisher for us that we want to continue to build.
You mentioned recycling “the right way.” What does that mean at Securis?
Allen: Going out and destroying data securely typically involves shredding a hard drive. Not only do we ensure we’ve destroyed the data safely but we make sure the shredded hard drive is sent downstream to someone who is regulatorily approved so we know the material will get recycled and goes back to the system. That’s responsible recycling; it’s a cool part of our mission.
Why is data security and destruction an important issue and how does Securis manage it?
McNeill: We’re located close to the nation’s capital, so we often work with government contractors. Some of the data on their hard drives is top secret so it’s important we destroy it securely for them on-site. Even one misplaced hard drive could cause very serious consequences.
Medical institutions and banking and financial institutions have data security concerns as well. An embarrassing data breach doesn’t look good for anybody, and those industries are especially conscious of the risk. We do a lot of on-site shredding for those types of institutions.
Allen: Everyone should be data conscious. You might want to resell your cell phone but is your personal data worth $50? The answer is clearly no. When you’re purchasing a new phone and you want to retire your old one, make sure to get it shredded and keep your data safe.
In September, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced charges against Morgan Stanley stemming from the company’s failures, over a five-year period, to protect the personal identifying information of approximately 15 million customers. That’s a situation where the company thought data had been sanitized and cleaned but wasn’t.
We have security conscious customers, and we tell them it’s not enough to shred [data]. You need a degausser to magnetically wipe the drives clean before they are shredded. If data is not degaussed first, a bad actor can try to find the right pieces of a shredded hard drive and gain access to data. We’re big proponents of degaussing and shredding.
McNeill: We work with R2 [certified] vendors, and all of our downstream partners are R2 certified. This certification means that all materials are upcycled or recycled in the most environmentally friendly way possible.
What advice would you give to electronics recyclers who are just getting started in the ITAD business?
Allen: It is a very hard business to do well in because of the risk exposure. I think if someone is thinking of entering the business, they need to really think through those issues. It’s not just the risk of what happens at your ITAD facility, you also need to consider what happens when the material goes downstream.
There’s a lot of investment that needs to be made and understanding the front to back of the operation. It’s not about understanding where you are in the food chain, but where the material is going and where it ultimately winds up.
How have Securis and the ITAD industry changed since the pandemic?
Allen: How much time do you have [laughs]? But yes, there have been big changes. Around the middle of 2020, we saw a huge demand for monitors and laptops. No one was going into the office, and everyone wanted home offices set up with a lot of monitors.
We saw a real boom occur in those categories. We’ve seen that fall back a little – not to pre-pandemic levels – but not at the height they were in the last two years.
McNeill: The way IT departments operate has changed since the pandemic. More employees are working remotely so we’re seeing IT departments mail laptops to employees and employees mailing them back. This adds wear and tear to devices and shortens the refresh cycle on some electronics. We’re also seeing IT departments act like collection sites for employees’ old laptops and other electronic office devices.
Allen: We’re seeing several longer-term macro trends. We see fewer desktop computers as people migrate away from desktops to laptops. We’re also seeing fewer cathode ray tube (CRT) TV sets and computer monitors and more flat-screen TVs. Moving away from CRTs is good for the environment as everything in flat-screen TVs can be recycled. unlike CRTs that require special handling due to toxins such as mercury.
Feature Image Courtesy of Securis. Body Images Courtesy of ISRI.