Three siblings started a business together that has grown from a 60-by-40-foot shed to a 20,000-square-foot facility.
The Wolffs — Jonathan, 38, Kate, 37, and Daniel, 34 — are co-owners of CJD E-Cycling, an electronics recycling company based in Edwardsville.
When they first started, Kate Wolff said they were the only employees. As owners, they also drove the trucks to collect e-waste at recycling events and would dismantle the electronics themselves.
That was around 2012, when the Electronic Products and Recycling Act was taking effect in Illinois, which banned electronics in landfills.
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Today, there are up to 15 employees at CJD E-Cycling, depending on the season. Business picks up at this time of year because of spring cleaning, Kate Wolff said.
“When you come to us, we’re not going to turn you away. We’re not going to pick through your stuff,” she said. “We’re going to take all of your items and help you recycle everything.”
One CJD location that accepts drop-offs is the Edwardsville facility at 5257 Illinois 157, which has drive-thru access.
Another location in East Alton is both a collection center and the CJD E-Store, where customers can purchase refurbished electronics at 513 East St. Louis Ave.
“We’re big in to reuse first before we recycle,” Kate Wolff said. “... Any laptops, desktops, flat screen TVs, flat screen monitors, we try to repair them first, and then resell them through our store in East Alton.”
CJD E-Cycling also partners with the Macoupin Center for the Developmentally Disabled in Carlinville and MAW Salvage North in Fieldon, which serve as collection centers for communities north of the metro-east.
There’s a fee to drop off a TV for recycling. Depending on its size, the cost could be between $5 and $25. Kate Wolff said customers will get a voucher for the amount they pay that can be used at the CJD E-Store toward a purchase of $100 or more.
Recycling alkaline batteries also comes at a cost. Customers can purchase a small or large box for either $7 or $15, respectively, and bring it back to CJD E-Cycling when it’s full.
Just like when they started, Kate Wolff said CJD E-Cycling continues to offer recycling events in areas that don’t have a brick-and-mortar collection center.
“We want to make it easy for people to recycle, so we like to host drives not only here, which is 20-mile, 30-mile radius — it covers this area — but host out in our community and places like Belleville, places like Shiloh, Fairview Heights, that don’t have recyclers in their area,” Kate Wolff said.
The business will also arrange pick ups for businesses, schools and municipalities.
We want to make it easy for people to recycle.
Kate Wolff, CJD E-Cycling co-owner
For more information, visit the business’ website, cjdecycling.com, or call the main facility in Edwardsville at 618-659-9006.
Q: What’s your process like when you get electronics?
A: “Residents, businesses, municipalities can come into our facilities, drop off that material. It comes into a secure facility. Once it comes in here, it gets checked in, and then it goes through our processing. We do a lot of demanufacturing (dismantling electronics) here, so we demanufacture the computers, cable boxes and printers and things like that. The hard drives and stuff go through a process; They’re either DoD wiped (data destruction through software) or they’re physically destroyed. It’s usually the choice of the consumer of how we do that.
... Most of our downstream recyclers, I went to their facilities to make sure they are also doing it correctly.”
Q: You and your brothers took similar career paths. You ended up working together. Are you a close family? And are these your only siblings?
A: “I come from a family of 16. I’m No. 15 of 16. We’re actually the three youngest. ... We’re a very close family.”
Q: Were your parents involved in this sort of work, too?
A: “It actually started with our grandfather. He always worked for somebody and also always had his own business. He ran a water truck on the side, and he’d also do salvage on the side. So he would go to sales, and he would pick up from farmers and all that. When we were little kids, one of the things was always were you able to get to go with grandpa? He would take us and show us the different types of electric motors and different types of metal. My brothers really responded well to that. One, that was his passion. He started a salvage yard that’s been going for 20 years. But we all growing up had always looked to recycling and salvage to help make extra money for our family.”
Q: You said when you started, you were in a 60-by-40(-foot) shed, and you were the only three employees. How has the e-cycling business grown since then?
A: “We started in the 60-by-40 not knowing what was happening. We didn’t have the funds to invest in a big facility, and we didn’t know what was going to happen. It worked out well in the beginning. We would do pick-ups, host events on Saturdays and bring it back to that facility. ... After I did my sales and my business paperwork and Daniel did his other things, construction work, at nighttime, we’d spend three to four hours actually doing the demanufacturing ourselves. So from the ground up, we’ve been in the trucks, did the sales, and we’ve done the tear down of the material.
... We had to search out a larger facility and that took us to Godfrey. We actually upped in size to 10,000 square feet, got a loading dock and that really helped us grow because we were able to bring in semitrailers verses just cars and box trucks. We really outgrew that facility, plus the timing, we weren’t able to renew our lease. Then, we searched out our own property. That’s how we came to Edwardsville. This property had been sitting vacant for three to four years. So it was kind of a win-win. We didn’t have to build a new facility. ... We were able to go from 10,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet.”
Q: Is that nice for you having family around in your work life every day?
A: “I think it’s good. With us three, we’re very similar, but we’re very different. We all bring different aspects to the business. We all have different opinions. I’ll bring up an idea, and I think it’s the greatest idea ever, and they make me prove that it would work. Instead of being, ‘OK, let’s do this.’ No, I have to prove to the two of them, ‘This is why.’ It makes me work harder because I want to prove to them that it will work. Sometimes, halfway through, I’ll be like, ‘No, that was a bad idea.’ We challenge each other quite often, but then also support each other in different ideas.”
Learn more about the electronics recycling company.
- Location: 5257 Illinois 157, Edwardsville
- Phone number: 618-659-9006
- Website: cjdecycling.com
- What it accepts: Anything with a cord and anything metal
- Where the name comes from: Co-owners and siblings Catherine “Kate” Wolff, Jonathan Wolff and Daniel Wolff