In nearly 20 years, Regional Computer Recycling & Recovery LLC has become one of the largest electronics recyclers in New York, collecting 30 million pounds of material last year alone.
The company has been a major player in the industry since its founding in 1995. It was restructured and organized as an LLC in 1997.
“We’re kind of first to market in this region,” President Michael Whyte said. “Electronics recycling is somewhat of a new industry. … For a relatively new industry, we’re kind of grandfathers in the industry.”
The company’s headquarters is a building of more than 100,000 square feet on 18 acres in Victor. Two 10,000-square-foot satellite locations are in Westchester County and Scotia, near Albany.
RCR&R serves every area of the state, and its 8,000 clients are in many sectors, including health care, government, education and private industry. It serves hundreds of health care providers, schools and colleges, financial entities and 300 government agencies.
The company employs 105 people, roughly 85 of them in the Rochester area. By year’s end, it is likely to add 10 to 15 employees, mostly in Rochester.
RCR&R’s volume increased by an average of 40 percent annually from 2010 to 2013, with more than 60 percent growth in 2012. This year, it expects to collect roughly 25 million pounds of material.
“We went through a little bit of a downturn at the end of 2013; now we’re ready to ramp back up,” Whyte said.
Revenues are driven by fees from asset management, recycling, logistics, universal waste such as fluorescent lamps and batteries, and data security.
Some 95 percent of the equipment processed becomes scrap. The rest is refurbished and resold in online sales. The firm’s reseller business has some 6,000 items on eBay daily under its own section called Electronics Cafe.
Recycling in New York has undergone major changes in the past few years, industry officials say.
The state Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act, which took effect in April 2011, shook up the industry. The law requires manufacturers to set up and fund programs for the collection and recycling of electronic waste in New York, allowing customers to recycle their equipment for free.
It triggered a surge in recycling of electronic hardware. However, the law limited the volume a manufacturer was required to pay for. This created a problem for recycling companies, which would collect the materials without adequate compensation.
“We weren’t supported,” Whyte said. “The one thing about the scrap business (is), volume is king. If we can’t make money on it, we can’t afford to do it. So, in that regard, the state law—it really hurt our ability to grow.”
By 2013, New York had more than 1,000 collection sites for electronic goods, half of which were in RCR&R’s eWaste Alliance Network. Volume topped 100 million pounds.
“We went out and we set up all these collection sites across the state to provide free and convenient recycling for consumers, and then the manufacturers would reimburse us for those costs,” Whyte said. “It sounds great, but there’s some fundamental flaws with the law.”
After building the network, RCR&R decided at the end of the 2013 program year to stop free collection of costly cathode ray tube devices because of insufficient funding under the new law.
As a result, several of RCR&R’s municipal customers began working with other recyclers that were continuing to offer free CRT recycling. Less than six months later, however, many of RCR&R competitors have started to realize what RCR&R saw—that the volume of covered electronics collected in the state far exceeds the volume eligible for funding under New York’s e-waste recycling law.
“Fortunately for us, we made a strategic move,” Whyte said. “Now those competitors are starting to stumble because they also lack funding.”
The company weathered the move because of its strong commercial volume, its reseller segment, its established history in the business and its diversified customer base.
Whyte can remember the company’s early days, driving the truck and refurbishing its first facility.
“I never take success for granted and I’m very proud of the past, but I’m always looking at the future,” he said. “It’s a much larger enterprise than I expected to have.”
The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. This year’s Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 5. For more information, go to rochesterbusinessalliance.com.
Regional Computer Recycling & Recovery LLC
Provider of custom electronics recycling services
Year founded: 1995
Top executive: Michael Whyte,
2013 ranking: 15
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