Since the late 1970s, an explosion in high-tech gadgetry has transformed the world. From computers to televisions to cell phones, we have all grown accustomed to having our information, movies and music available on demand within an arm’s length.
Unfortunately, the rapidly-changing nature of electronics technology results in a limited life span for most devices. Whether gadgets fail on their own or just fall victim to planned obsolescence, we have become used to having to replace them on a regular schedule. While the prospect of purchasing new technology can be exciting, it also has a dark downside – how to dispose of the old devices.
All too often, discarded electronics end up in community landfills, adding to an already vexing solid waste problem. To make matters worse, many of these devices contain exotic metals and chemical compounds which can have serious environmental impacts if they are not disposed of properly.
Fortunately, Hendersonville area businesses and consumers have a solution to the electronics disposal dilemma – Electronics Recycling Solutions (ERS). Founded by entrepreneur and former educator Rebeckah Dopp, ERS is a social enterprise driven by two important goals: employing individuals with learning disabilities and recycling electronic devices.
“We are not a recycling company that just woke up and decided to hire adults with learning disabilities,” says Rebeckah. “Our first priority has always been the creation of jobs for young people with special needs.”
Although she knew that she wanted to start a company, Rebeckah was not certain what type of business it should be. Accordingly, she invested a lot of time exploring different types of companies to determine the best fit for her targeted employee group.
“Before ERS, I was a special education teacher and a school principal who dealt with special needs kids for over half of my life,” recalls Rebeckah. “As soon as I learned about electronics recycling, I knew that it would be a perfect fit for kids on the autism spectrum, most of whom have a natural inclination toward all things technical.”
During the company’s early days, Rebeckah spent a lot of time trying to line up investors, facilities and equipment so that she could begin her operations. At first, times were very lean, requiring her to take a job as a Lyft driver just to help keep the lights on. However, she finally was able to amass sufficient funding to launch ERS in 2018 in a warehouse on Airport Road in nearby Gallatin.
Since startup, ERS has expanded its service offerings, offering a variety of electronics recycling and data security solutions for both businesses and consumers. On average, the company recycles over 7,000 lbs. of e-waste each month and is always looking for ways to increase its capacity.
“We are not driven by money, but by volume,” says Rebeckah. “The more that we can recycle, the more jobs that we can create to help our young people.”
The company’s rapid growth and success has not gone unnoticed in the business community. On
Nov. 1, 2019, ERS was purchased by Franklin, TN-based Health Connect America (HCA). Although not a recycling firm, HCA shares the ERS commitment to bettering the lives of individuals and families with special needs.
“HCA didn’t purchase us because we were making a ton of money,” says Rebeckah. “They acquired us because they love our mission, and they think that we are executing our plan really well. It was a win-win for both parties.”
Today, Rebeckah continues her mission by serving as HCA’s vice president of development. Along with continuing to oversee ERS, her new duties include expanding the company’s presence throughout the southeast.
“We figured out how to give young people a great start toward leading productive, independent lives while helping to save the planet through recycling,” says Rebeckah. “HCA gives us the resources to help even more people in the years to come.”
Electronics Recycling Solutions
545B Airport Road,
287 Free Hill Road, Warehouse C,
510 Hartmann Dr.,
Call or visit the website for hours, acceptable electronics and fees.