MARCH 2009

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Mike Keough • 877-492-4968

Mike Keough, CEO of E-Structors, described the company as “a comprehensive destruction company” that can recycle a large variety of electronics, including CRTs, desktop computers, servers and peripherals. To make it even more convenient for customers, E-Structors also has a document destruction line that can handle mixed media so the customers can have “one company for the entire waste stream.”

Keough, like many in the recycling industry, followed in family footsteps. His father had worked for BFI and later founded one of the first document shredding companies in the country. Keough said he “took a lot of those experiences in document shredding into electronics.”

Besides destroying outdated or nonfunctioning electronic equipment, E-Structors also resells useful computer components. Keough called his process reverse manufacturing, where usable components are wholesaled to companies that rebuild the computers and resell them as working systems. However, none of those wholesaled units have hard drives or operating systems included, so customer data is never compromised.

Keough said that the wholesaling came about as a direct result of customer requests. “We ask customers how we can service them better,” he said, and E-Structors was missing the opportunity to handle newer equipment that still had a useful life.

Out of all the material that comes in to the plant, Keough estimated that only about one percent is landfilled, and that comes largely from the laminated wood cabinets from console televisions. The rest of the materials find homes as recycled materials.

Keough said many electronics recyclers operated on a business model where all of the work was done by hand, which isn’t cost effective. In order to stay in business, he estimated that a company needed to process about 1.5 million pounds of material per month, which would be nearly impossible to do entirely by hand.

“You can’t just shred electronics,” Keough said. “You have to touch everything.” While there is a very large manual component to his processes, it is done quickly and efficiently, and that much of it is “very much automated” including the shredding and baling of the materials. Figuring out how to best process materials – the “operations challenge” as Keough called it – is one of the things he enjoys most about his job.

Keough said that customers want to make sure the material is being handled responsibly, and that it isn’t being shipped overseas. “The days of making an easy dollar are gone,” he said of competitors who often took the easy route to recycling.

E-Structors operates under one roof, in a new facility opened in September 2008, replacing the original space of about 21,000 square feet. Having everything in one building helps maintain security for the government, corporate and municipal customers who want their data safely destroyed.

Keough said that there has been a tightening of policies regarding the safeguarding of data on computer hard drives. In the past, it was sufficient to “wipe” the drives using software that securely erased the data. Now, physically shredding the hard drives is becoming the preferred method.

While E-Structors processes a large volume of materials, they don’t require large volumes from customers. Keough said the “bread and butter” of his business are the small customers with just a few computers to be picked up at an office.

But large is okay, too. Not long ago, E-Structors was responsible for recycling the JumboTrons and other electronic equipment from Camden Yards Stadium in Baltimore.

The company continues to expand and grow. Over time, the electronics destruction business has grown to include cardboard and paper shredding, and has become a regional processor of glass. Now, Keough said he would like to expand to include more industry segments including government Department of Defense and healthcare.

For Keough, it’s not all about electronics and recycling. He said that when he started the business, he and his wife made it a priority “to give back in the community.” He provides a number of entry-level jobs and offers on-the-job training so the employees improve their skills.

The company also partners with a school for autistic students, giving those students and others with special needs an opportunity to work. Keough said that elsewhere these job opportunities “are few and far between,” but that E-Structors will continue to provide these jobs and to help all of his employees better themselves.