A1 Assets in Lake Mary Keeps Used Technology Out of Landfills
Stacked into tower-like structures throughout the 120,000-square- foot warehouse at A1 Assets, used computer monitors, tablets, CPUs, mobile data devices and other outdated electronic products line the aisles in a labyrinthine system of organized chaos. With determination in their motions, employees strip down, separate or repair these products that otherwise would wind up in landfills.
A1 Assets is a Lake Mary-based company that seeks to reduce, reuse and remarket electronic waste and other salvageable trash in Central Florida. The EPA considers e-waste to be a subset of used electronics and recognizes that these materials can be reused, refurbished or recycled.
Every year, U.S. consumers and businesses discard more than 2.37 million tons of e-waste, which includes old televisions, computers, cell phones, printers, scanners, fax machines and other electronic equipment, according to 2009 figures, the most recent available. Only 25 percent of these electronics were collected for recycling, with the remainder disposed of primarily in landfills, where the precious metals cannot be recovered.
The EPA estimates that recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity it takes to power 3,657 U.S. homes for a year. A1 Assets refurbishes about 4,000 computers a month. As of the end of 2017, the company’s facilities had processed more than 70 million pounds of electronic recyclables with a 100 percent reuse or recycle rate.
“My passion is finding value in things other people no longer need,” said David Leavitt, founder and CEO of A1 Assets, which has been keeping used technology out of landfills since January 2001. The company works with the philosophy that extending the life of these products extends the life of the planet.
While A1 Assets primarily handles electronics, it also regularly recycles everything from medical lab equipment to lawn tools to automotive machinery.
“Pretty much if you can imagine what a municipality or a Fortune 500 company would surplus, we handle that for them,” Leavitt said. “What we can’t sell, we disassemble and recycle. I don’t think there’s anything out there that we’ve never sold or recycled before.”
To resell refurbished items, A1 Assets maintains a network of e-commerce stores, online auctions and a retail location:
• Refresh Computers is a brick-and- mortar superstore in Longwood. Many of the recycled computers, laptops, monitors, printers and other electronics received by A1 Assets are refurbished and sent to this location for sale. Refresh Computers also operates a fleet of service and installation vehicles, so a technician can visit any home or office in Central Florida for any type of computer or network repair issues.
• Refurbished phones often wind up at Refresh Telecom, which is a telephone equipment remarketing store and an FCC-registered business-class VoIP, or internet-based, telephone service provider. Refresh Telecom issues new local telephone numbers and ports in existing telephone numbers from other communications companies.
• Technology Surplus Depot features thousands of government and corporate auctions online. This platform remarkets items ranging from computer chips to lawn equipment, furniture to hospital supplies. “We even auction surplus buses for the Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority,” Leavitt said. “I remember about a year ago, the police department had busted a shoplifting ring. So, we got hundreds of pairs of brand-new Nike sneakers in an auction and wound up selling the shoes on our site. Sometimes we’re a shoe store, sometimes we’re an automotive parts store, sometimes we’re a tech store — and it’s all on TechnologySurplusDepot.com.”
“In the very beginning, I started with recycling phone equipment, which obviously launched into other things,” Leavitt said. “I believe in connecting dots. There’s always another dot, and you have to follow those dots wherever the business takes you. And that’s what we did.”
In April of this year, A1 Assets moved from Longwood to its new 120,000-square-foot headquarters. “Since moving to Lake Mary, we started dealing with scrap metal as a result of recycling. We not only decided to start bidding on scrap metal projects, but since moving to a larger location with more space, we also started recycling old CRT-type televisions, which are a totally new venture for us. More dots connected.”
The team has expanded from 65 employees to 130 in the past year. “By the time we got up and running in the new facility — I don’t know if it was just word-of-mouth — but we quickly needed more hands on deck,” Leavitt said. “We handle 26 different counties in Florida and probably 40 to 50 different cities in Florida, so we needed to grow the team to cater to the municipalities and companies we serve.”
A1 Assets currently holds all of the relevant certifications in the recycling industry, including ISO (14001), OHSAS (18001) and R2. This validates the organization’s compliance with ethical and responsible recycling standards and shows A1 has passed the rigorous auditing processes associated with each certification.
“The R2 certification is significant because it essentially proves that we’re not just dumping material or waste in a Third World country or acting unethically,” Leavitt said. “We prove that all of our shipments are monitored and that we make sure they are going to the right places.”
According to the EPA, an undetermined amount of e-waste is shipped from the U.S. and other countries to developing countries that lack the ability to decline imports or to properly dispose of hazardous materials. Without safe practices, handling these imports often leads to public health and environmental concerns, such as toxic materials leaching into the environment, or workers being exposed to harmful materials such as mercury, lead and arsenic, which all can lead to negative health effects including cancers, diminished IQ or miscarriage.
Leavitt’s goal for A1 Assets extends beyond the reach of an ethical mission to sustainably remarket products, revive technology and reduce waste. “The vision of the company is also to return as much money as possible back into taxpayers’ pockets for the municipalities that we serve, while at the same time responsibly recycling what is just no longer marketable.”