11:22 | 28.10.19 | Interviews | exclusive 285036

John Shegerian: We recycle old electronics and make something useful of it

John Shegerian is a serial social entrepreneur, cofounder and Executive Chairman of ERI, the largest electronics recycling and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the U.S. ERI has the capacity to process more than a billion pounds of electronic waste annually at its eight certified locations.

Shegerian is also a sought-after speaker, panelist and expert, presenting his analyses at events all over the world. He regularly provides his expert knowledge to news media, including The Wall Street Journal, TIME, Newsweek and Forbes, among others.

Itel.am has talked with John Shegerian on the margins of WCIT 2019.

Mr Shegerian, this is your first visit to Armenia. What does it feel like?

I am almost 57 years old and I have traveled the world, and to come to my homeland from where my grandparents are is a different experience of coming home. It is really unique, and when you come here you understand how important it is for you.

What did you know about the Armenian tech and entrepreneurship sector before this visit?

When they invited me to come to WCIT, I had to say yes. All my life, I’ve been too busy with my business in America and had no chance to see Armenia by myself. My children and my wife encouraged me numerous times before to visit Armenia and finally, I decided to come.

John Shegerian and Narine Daneghyan John Shegerian and Narine Daneghyan

A few weeks back I met your Minister of Nature Protection in New York City and he explained to me his vision of Economic Development combined with Environmental Protection, and given that I’m in the recycling business, it makes so much sense to me. The Minister explained to me that the technology collector of Armenia is growing 25% a year which is very exciting, and economic opportunities combined with Environmental Protection opportunities are very compelling, so I found that to be very true. I found people to be very open and welcoming, also generous in terms of sharing their time and information with me.

How did you create ERI?

We started off as a small company, like most of the companies start. An extra bedroom of my house in Fresno, California, me, my wife and our two partners. We just started building this company in the spring of 2005, and here we are 14 years later as the largest brand in recycling electronics and hardware data destruction in the United States.

We have over 3,000 clients, 925 employees. It has become both an honor and an opportunity not to only recycle electronics every month but also make the world a better place.

How can Armenia’s technological talent contribute to the development of your company?

We live with economic opportunities that exist here. It’s a big-time here and the fact that the tech sector is growing 25% annually means that turnover in electronics is going to be very fast. Just realize that electronic waste is the fastest growing waste in the world and that includes Armenia and there is no sense dumping this old electronics into the environment anymore when you can keep them above the ground and recycle them appropriately, make something useful of it.

All the steel, aluminum, gold, silver and plastics [from recycled electronics] goes for beneficial reuse to make new products. Last year we saved more than 815 million pounds of carbon emissions just in a year and we are just one company.

The environmental impact is huge. Also economically, our 958 employees make a good living, the company gets a good profit and we can do the same in Armenia.

Maybe if I set a company here in Armenia, we can call it ERHye instead of ERI. (laughs – Itel.am).

During this visit I'm going to visit a number of technological centers here, and as a result, we can start working with programmers from here. Why not?

What is the future of recycling technologies in the world?

This is just the beginning. The millennial generation is going to take the torch from the people like me and take the sustainability opportunity to the sustainability revolution.

Recycling should be responsible and opportunities for your generation are going to be huge. Sustainability Revolution is going to be great for Armenia.

When I heard the Prime Minister of Armenia speak in NY in St Vardan’s cathedral, where I got married 35 years ago, it was really inspiring to listen to him. He is part of the new generation. This gives me great hope that democracy will become what people will come to expect. His message “Come to Armenia and spend time, bring any expertise and knowledge you have and share it with your brothers and sisters in Armenia” was important for me.

When I came here I felt that the possibility of united Armenia is real and I want to be part of that possibility to make it a reality.

Narine Daneghyan talked to John Shegerian