Recycling company joins tech park

By Emily Lepkowski

March 9, 2016

CEO Dale Helgeson referred to the move to Whitewater as a “pilot” for DP Electronic Recycling.

“Once we get this up and running, we want to put six of these in the U.S and we’re also talking internationally right now,” said Helgeson.

The approved Developer’s Agreement  between DP Electronic Recycling Inc. and the city is pushing the company closer to building their new state-of-the art facility in Whitewater.   

With the designated location on the end of Main Street near the East Main Street Court, the new building will also be the company’s world headquarters.

The site offers over 11 acres of land for the new facility as well as a guaranteed $8 million value and $11 million construction value, said Whitewater community authority Patrick Cannon.

“We are looking forward to coming and being in the [Whitewater University Technology Park] which is a pretty exciting,” Helgeson said. “We’re looking to come into the community and make a difference.”

The Technology Park is located on the east side of Whitewater and contains the Innovation Center.

The city and DP Electronic Recycling have been working on the plans to move to Whitewater for a little over four years.

“This isn’t just somebody’s idea at this point,” Cannon said. “This is well defined, ready to go. “We should be getting final plans which has everything to it, [such as] how things are going to be layed out inside.”

The Elkhorn-based company is a full service electronic recycler that focuses on finding environmental and ethical solutions to e-waste.

Cannon estimates it will take between 12 and 14 months to build the new facility.

“They would like to be fully operational by the end of 2017 for sure, but they think they’ll be open probably next summer,” Cannon said.

The company’s plan to incorporate new technology at their Whitewater facility is also making them stand out.

“It’s going to be the only one in the world of it’s kind,” Helgeson said. “We’re going to have electronic shredding lines that we’re bringing in that’s 20 percent more efficient than anything else in the U.S.”

The new shredding lines will be able to shred up to 10 pounds of electronics per hour and sort each commodity type into automated sorting technologies.

“Then, we’re going to expand our asset and data destruction areas to where we will be able to handle fully functionality tests to where we will be able to handle up to 5 million computers a year,” said Helgeson.

The facility will also have a new glass recycler that will allow them to take hazardous CRT glass  and turn it into ceramic products that are safer, Cannon said.

“They’re going to encapsulate all the bad parts of the CRT tubes,” Cannon said. “There are over a billion pounds of CRT laying around; at this point, there’s no other way to dispose of them.”

The recycler will be able to take glass from computers and televisions and turn it into a higher quality tile for kitchens or bathrooms.

Part of the reason the process took over four years was receiving approval by the Department of Natural Resources and all of the regulatory bodies.

“Because it’s new, they take extra precaution to make sure it’s going to be safe not only for our workers but for the products and for the community,” Helgeson said.

The company also utilized a third party engineering firm that did environmental testing on all their new technology.

DP Electronic Recycling’s operation will bring between 90 to 100 job openings to the city of Whitewater, benefitting both the company and the community, Cannon said.

“There’s the multiplier effect from each person, they go out and shop , they go to restaurants, they do all those other things, so hopefully they’ll rent and apartment and live here in the community,” Cannon said.

Part of what drew the company to Whitewater was having the University in the community.  It was a “turnstile” of potential new employees, Helgeson said.

“If some aren’t going to make it through school maybe they just aren’t meant for college, but they’re really good workers and I can put them up in my shop,” said Helgeson. “You have the people who do go through college, who maybe will be great in my office setting.”

Helgeson also talked about the need to address environmental issues.

“In the recycling field especially electronics, there’s always companies trying to find cheaper ways to manufacture this stuff, so a lot of times when they do it, they create a hazardous waste stream,” said Helgeson.

He referenced using products such as plastic who have low market prices. Helgeson explained that using those products in different revenues can help make recycling electronics such as televisions, that are high in mercury, more efficient to break down.

“I think it’s our job as a electronic recycler to create solutions for that,” Helgeson said. “And it’s a little different than what most recyclers do.”