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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 24, 2006 12 years ago

Profitable Environmentalism

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For every ounce of gold that Creative Recycling Systems recycles from discarded electronics, it saves the world 20 tons of mine waste.

Profitable Environmentalism

Technology Innovation Awards - Tampa Bay runner-up by Janet Leiser | Senior Editor

For every ounce of gold that Creative Recycling Systems recycles from discarded electronics, it saves the world 20 tons of mine waste.

Entrepreneur's dream: Create wealth while making the world a better place.

It's reality for Jon Yob, 44, founder and CEO of Creative Recycling Systems Inc., a 12-year-old company that saves thousands of tons of electronics from landfills throughout the Southeast every year. Yob has created a successful company that plans to open another 42 locations, for a total of 50 within five years, and employ more than 1,000 people.

In the past year, Yob reinvested $3 million in Creative Recycling to automate production. The company moved into a new 120,000-square-foot building, quadrupling the size of its Tampa facility, to make room for David, a recycling machine that fills 60,000 square feet and is expected to increase production volume by 1,000%.

Thanks to David, the company, which recycles electronics from old TVs to computers, will save $20,000 on labor costs monthly just in the recycling of cathode ray tube televisions. And televisions are one of many electronic products the company recycles.

"We are prepared for the onslaught of end-of-life equipment," Yob says. "We were manually disassembling all this equipment."

Last year, without David, Creative Recycling's revenue grew 75%, he says, adding, "We had a great spike in commodities prices, and we've had great success at our new facilities."

Growth in prior years averaged 40%, he says. All that without outside investment or venture capital.

The company sells the metals, including copper, aluminum, paladium and gold, it salvages from the equipment. Plus, it refurbishes not-so-old computers for resale, primarily in South America.

Yob declined to release revenue figures. But the 88-person company, which employs as many as eight of the CEO's relatives, including brothers and his wife, Lisa Yob, has "grown on its own steam" despite offers of outside capital.

All three of Creative Recycling's divisions - services to companies and governmental entities pay to discard outdated equipment, commodities generated by recycling and the remarketing of refurbished computers - create fairly equal revenue streams, he says.

David, installed about a month ago, is expected to salvage 25,000 ounces of gold annually from old electronics. And for every ounce of recycled gold, that's 20 tons of mine waste that is not generated, Yob says. Over a year, Creative Recycling saves the world 500,000 tons of waste.

Life-changing experience

In 1989, Yob, who's also a local real estate investor, owned Tampa Metals, a company that buys and sells recycled metals. He was hurt in a plant accident when heavy equipment fell on him, severing his femoral artery.

He nearly bled to death. But doctors at Tampa General Hospital saved his life in a month-long stay.

That experience changed his life. He wanted to give more back to the community. He volunteered at the hospital where he regained his life.

In 1994, he started Creative Recycling Systems, creating a recycling infrastructure in Florida to save electronics from the landfills. Of all the thousands of tons of electronics collected by the company, less than 1% ends up at landfills.

"I feel great about what we do," he says.

His brother, Carl Yob, still runs Tampa Metals, owned by Yob.

But the entrepreneur finds his new company more rewarding and fun.

"When you do the traditional recycling, it's the same thing over and over again," Yob says. "In electronics, it's always new. Even today, after all these years, you still see something new."

The company has donated more than 1,000 refurbished computers to nonprofit groups. Plus, Yob gives his time and money to nonprofits in the area, including more than $100,000 to Tampa's Junior Achievement Enterprise Village.

"I just like making things happen," he says. "I like building, whether it's a business or a nonprofit agency. It's nice to make good things happen."

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