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Luminous electronics recycling.


Steve Fuelberth was an engineer for UPS in Kansas City, Mo., before getting into the waste industry with BFI in Colorado in 1998. He then bounced around the Southwest, working waste- and recycling-related positions in Arizona and Texas before returning to Denver in 2004 to launch Luminous Electronic Recycling.

"It was time to get out of the corporate world and get back to where I wanted to put this business, which was in Colorado," he said.

The initial Luminous business plan centered on recycling mercury-laden fluorescent lamps, but he found a better business model recycling electronics of all kinds. "There's more available, and there's better growth potential so I put electronics in the forefront, and lamps became secondary," Fuelberth said.

Fuelberth is president and CEO of Luminous, which today has about 20 employees and is in the process of relocating from a relatively small 11,000-square-foot Denver plant to a 112,000-square-foot facility in Aurora. Luminous' sales grew exponentially in the past year, he said.


For a fee, Luminous recycles electronics of all kinds, relieving customers of liability of losing sensitive data or valuable intellectual property (or befouling the environment) when retiring outdated technology, and fully documents the process.

"It's a cheap insurance policy," Fuelberth said. "But it's also the environmentally correct thing to do."

While most recyclers focus on just one type or era of technology, Luminous will recycle anything, especially electronics with no market value.

"The foundation of my organization is handling that old 286 computer," Fuelberth said. "Technology is getting so cheap anymore, fewer and fewer people are looking for a used PC."

He described three tiers of electronics recycling: Tier one, you refurbish the computer (or other electronic device) and resell it. (Luminous usually wholesales the refurbished product, but in some cases retails it via eBay.) Tier two, you take it apart and sell it piece by piece and recycle whatever the market doesn't want. Tier three, you destroy the electronics--if they have no value or if there are liability issues--and wholesale the scrap as copper- or aluminum-bearing material to a growing international market.


"The best way to recycle is to reuse, but we don't tell our customers they have to do that," noted Fuelberth, citing a company goal of recycling 3 million pounds of electronic scrap in 2007. "The material that we get, the determination on how we handle it is not our determination, it's our customer's determination. If they have brand-new Pentium 4s they don't want to re-market because of liability, we'll destroy them for them."

New at Luminous this year is MT3, a mobile industrial shredder mounted in a 28-foot trailer, designed to securely destroy hard drives at a customer's location. Cameras record both the serial number on the doomed hard drive, likely full of sensitive data, and the shredder's teeth obliterating it. The resulting scrap is then recycled into raw materials, and customers get a time-stamped DVD for their records.

"We don't sanitize those drives, we destroy them," Fuelberth said, noting that he hopes to franchise the MT3 business to other metro markets in the future.

Brocade (formerly McData) in Broomfield, has used Luminous to recycle the company's manufacturing scrap since mid-2006. "We didn't want our stuff ending up in landfills," Senior Inventory Analyst Tim Pecore said. "With our previous vendor, we just didn't know where it went." As Luminous documents and certifies its processes, this is no longer a problem, he added. "I have absolutely no complaints (with Luminous). It's been exceptional."


If you use electricity, you're in Luminous' target market. "Every person, every company is a potential customer," Fuelberth said, noting the company is hitting the residential market in tandem with a nonprofit. MT3's narrower market includes liability-laden sectors like banking and financial services, insurance and government.


Fuelberth said the company is "very closely held" and has a few limited investors. MT3 might have a need for outside capital in the future, he added.

luminous electronics recycling

Where: Aurora | Founded: 2004 |
"The side of the MT3 trailer says, 'Assured Destruction.' That's what
it's all about. If you're having a bad day, this is a very good stress
--Luminous Electronics Recycling President and CEO Steve Fuelberth
COPYRIGHT 2007 Wiesner Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Peterson, Eric
Article Type:Company overview
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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