McGuire: Recycling isn’t just a business, it’s an inspiration

Tommy McGuire, president of Echo Environmental, was a featured speaker at EarthX, “the world’s largest environmental experience,” over the weekend in Dallas.

The three-day event, coinciding with annual Earth Day celebrations held worldwide, filled historic Fair Park with exhibitions, demonstrations, seminars and even a film festival, all celebrating the need to safeguard the planet and exploring ways to do it better.

McGuire appeared on a panel discussing the state of recycling in Texas, moderated by Sara Nichols, program director of Keep Texas Beautiful. Other panelists were Robert Smouse, the Fort Worth municipality assistant director for solid waste; Kelly High, director of the Dallas Department of Sanitation; and Paige Swiney, executive director of Keep Mesquite Beautiful.

As the only representative of the private sector, McGuire stressed the importance of businesses in promoting environmental responsibility and educating people to recycle.

Echo Environmental’s slogan, “Taking Care of Business, Taking Care of the Earth,” reflects its dual goals of running a successful company while contributing to a better environment. Remarketing and recycling electronic assets allow businesses to recover value from items they throw away, while keeping them out of landfills.

“We’ve got 130 incredible employees,” McGuire told the audience. “I take very seriously each one of them, from the folks painting the walls to myself and everybody in between. We’ve got jobs because of recycling.” On the other hand, he added wryly,

There are only a limited amount of landfill jobs. You’ve got the truck driver, maybe the guy who’s working the gate. You’ve got a lot more jobs in recycling.Tommy McGuire President

The panel discussed the need for more awareness among the public to improve recycling rates. While cities and nonprofit organizations like Keep America Beautiful generally take the lead, McGuire said companies like Echo Environmental can also play an important role.
“If they actually come and visit our facility and see what’s involved in the process – hundreds of people taking things apart and the truckloads of cable boxes and desktops – all of a sudden you see this lightbulb in their head,” he said. “It humanizes things…it’s an operation that takes people and money and time. Maybe you can’t bring every citizen down to see the recycling process, but I bet if you could it would help the conversation.”

Although Echo Environmental currently works with businesses, McGuire said the company is exploring ways to reach individuals as well.

“My biggest customer possible is every household in the United States,” he said. “Everybody’s got a drawer with a couple of phones in it, or an old laptop or tablet…it’s a matter of getting creative and reaching more people.”

Beyond the bottom line, he said, the recycling business also has inspiring aspects.

“The stuff we’re recycling is going back into new products,” McGuire said. “If we’re recycling a 1970s computer, that material might go into an iPhone 12. That’s pretty cool to see the progression of how that works, and the lifecycle of a commodity that’s not being taken out of the ground.”