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May 2, 2013

E-waste businesswoman goes from part time to big time

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ROMEOVILLE — Karrie Gibson has gone from part-time tanning salon employee to an international recycling mogul in seven years.

The 41-year-old Plainfield woman’s rise to the top of the electronics recycling heap has been fast and furious. But above all else, she said she’s proud that her company is squeaky clean in an industry that hasn’t always had a good reputation.

Gibson is the owner of Romeoville-based Vintage Tech Recyclers, a company she started in her home that has grown to process 50 million pounds of electronics waste last year.

TVs, monitors, laptops, desktops, cell phones, cables, keyboards, mice, fax machines, MP3 players, video game consoles, VCRs, DVD players, zip drives and scanners are all “crunched and munched” by shredding machines and melted into their basic components.

Gold, copper, steel, aluminum, glass and plastic and other raw materials are extracted and recycled. Toxins — including lead, mercury and chromium — are disposed of. None of it ends up in landfills. Computers are either recycled or securely wiped clean and refurbished.

Vintage Tech accepts about 80 different kinds of electronics waste. The company will take almost anything; even a blender’s components can be recycled and reused, said Gibson’s husband, Todd. Cadmium and lead are removed from the blender, and the copper, stainless steel, glass, rubber and plastic all are recycled.