Pssst. Here's a little known fact: The gigantic Best Buy billboard in Times Square is made out of recycled waste from a West Coast company, Electronic Recyclers International.

ERI, a private company based in Fresno, Calif., is the largest electronics recycler in the United States, with locations in Massachusetts Maryland, Indiana, Minnesota, Colorado, Texas, California and Washington. As e-waste legislation expands, the company plans to service all 50 states.

ERI was founded by John Shegerian, who has been in the forefront of the U.S. recycling movement. Shegerian, whose slogan, is "Green is Good," a variation of Gordon Gekko's "Greed is Good," says he founded ERI "to remedy the problem that arises from an unintended consequence of the technological revolution and the electronic waste crisis."

E-waste, or discarded electronic equipment, is the fastest-growing solid waste stream in the world, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). E-waste constitutes anything with a cord or battery, from televisions, radios and computers to hairdryers and irons, and even household appliances like washing machines, dishwashers and air conditioners.

The amount gets bigger each year, and as a result, most of the electronic waste in the U.S. either gets illegally shipped overseas or goes to landfills. Both measures are extremely expensive as well as environmentally damaging.

"We're at the same inflection point as we were when I was starting out in the Internet industry," said Shegerian, who founded and sold several companies prior to forming ERI. "We had the big technology shakeout in 2000-2001. The Internet was developed to democratize information. Companies had no business model that could reach profitability. The same thing is happening in the green world today with respect to e-waste."

ERI does about $50 million yearly in revenue and employees about 400. Its shredder in Fresno processes up to 20,000 pounds of e-waste hourly and its second shredding facility is coming online by the end of the first quarter of 2011. A third shredder is in the works for Indiana.

The company exports no electronic waste, processing obsolete electronics and extracting the copper, plastics, glass and precious metals they contain. Best Buy and approximately 2,500 other client companies rely on ERI's services.

In 2009, the company signed a long-term contract with LS Nikko, one of the world's largest copper smelters, to undertake an urban mining operation. The Korean company, instead of mining raw copper from the ground, wanted to mine copper from discarded electronics.

"It's more profitable to mine these metals above ground than underground because it saves more energy," says Shegerian, who in turn sells these metals to smelters around the globe.  "Urban mining is the now a recognized and legitimate source of mining."

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