RetroBox – Making Money Tackling the E-Waste Stream

rbox.jpgMy colleague Tom Foremski at SiliconValleyWatcher and I had lunch yesterday with a remarkable entrepreneur, Harvard MBA Stampp Corbin of RetroBox.
RetroBox is essentially a computer recycling firm, though they deal in all manner of electronic devices, breaking them down for recycling as well as selling functional equipment on the secondary market. Mr Corbin’s tales of the road to success were inspirational to say the least, but the fact that he’s been able to embrace a serious environmental cause as the central tenet of his business makes his company a case study in triple bottom line principals: doing right environmentally, providing a valuable and profitable service to customers, as well as providing good jobs for the community in Columbus, Ohio. Corbin says “I sleep well at night, doing well by doing good.”

I asked him how important environmental considerations are to RetroBox’s clients. Just finding a way to get rid of electronic waste, preferably at a financial gain, is the biggest issue, but information security and environmental considerations are quickly becoming bigger concerns.
Environmental concerns, in particular, are growing as the likelihood of more government regulation of e-waste increases. Such regulation could be a boon to business for RetroBox, but Corbin is particular about just what kind of government involvement would be best, and most efficient.
Currently, a system called an “advanced recovery fee” has been proposed in many states that would charge end-users a certain amount, say $10, on top of the price of a computer monitor, for example. This cost would pay for the price of having someone properly dispose of the unit at the end of its life. The problem is that the $10 disappears into the depths of bureaucracy and may not result in an efficient recycling system.
But what if the end-user were given a tax credit upon disposal of the unit instead? That way, there is immediate payback upon disposal and a company, like RetroBox, would be eagerly waiting to help end-users make it happen. Although both scenarios merit study, my instinct is to go with the second.
Check out Tom Foremski’s post on SiliconValleyWatcher for some more insight.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.