Making It Work: IT recycling firm looking to clean up in ‘wide open’ US market

As America catches up with the EU on electronic waste and data privacy laws, Cork-founded Wisetek sees plenty of opportunity

22nd November, 2020
Making It Work: IT recycling firm looking to clean up in ‘wide open’ US market
Sean Sheehan, chief executive of Wisetek: ‘The idea of the circular economy is really gaining traction.’ Picture: John Allen

In the 13 years since its launch, Wisetek has grown to employ close to 400 people, offering IT recycling services to companies in 72 countries around the world.

Led by Sean Sheehan, its 60-year-old founder and chief executive, the Cork company is now eyeing further expansion in the US, where it recently appointed a new vice-president of sales for the market.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Bob Truelove will lead plans to increase Wisetek’s sales in North America, where the company has four recycling plants in Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland and California.

“The European market is fairly mature, but the US is wide open. There is a lot of opportunity and there’s no such thing as a small job over there,” Sheehan said.

“They’re all big jobs and US companies tend to want global solutions. Our network spans 72 countries, and we have the capacity in the four facilities we have over there to do the business, we just need to build up the sales.”

Sheehan set up Wisetek in Cork in 2007 on foot of his experience working for almost three decades in the electronics industry, mainly in production and warehouse roles.

Wisetek offers end-to-end IT asset disposition (ITAD) and manufacturing services from 13 facilities worldwide. The company recycles and repurposes IT equipment ranging from iPads and laptops to office IT and data centre equipment.

It is a client company of Enterprise Ireland, the state agency, and has annual revenues of about €60 million.

“Our growth over the years has really been helped by legislation, particularly the introduction of the WEEE Directive in Europe [for the disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment] and, more recently, GDPR which means that companies now need to be more careful about how their data-carrying equipment is disposed of,” Sheehan said.

“The US is only really starting to catch up on both of these fronts with legislation coming in now in different states. That’s why the market there holds so much opportunity for us coming into 2021.”

Sheehan said companies were becoming increasingly aware of the need to reduce waste and make use of more sustainable materials.

“The idea of the circular economy is really gaining traction,” he said. “If you went back five years, you’d find very few companies that were willing to buy an electronic device that had already been used.

“That’s changed. We did a poll recently with some tech companies locally. About 90 per cent said they would be quite happy to buy a device with some recycled elements.

“They are far more aware of why that matters, which is a huge change and an important one, because electronic waste is incredibly toxic.”

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