When a center that helps people who have visual impairments needed a new revenue stream, it added document destruction services under the name Arizona Center for the Blind Document Destruction (which now also does business as Arizona Document Destruction). When the document destruction business became too big, it separated from the center to form a standalone company, which has since expanded to offer a wider menu of services that includes product and beverage destruction.

The Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Phoenix has been providing services for individuals with visual impairments since 1947. It is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit that helps anyone 18 years or older who has lost sight or needs visual help to regain basic life skills, such as cooking, doing laundry and riding the bus, says Beth Williamson, president of Arizona Document Destruction.

Williamson says the center was seeking new avenues for funding and decided to pursue an idea offered by a former vice president for Motorola, who was on the nonprofit’s board of directors, and began offering document destruction services in 1994. As the document destruction company gained popularity, it began to make too much money to remain a wholly owned subsidiary of the center and separated to form a standalone business known as Arizona Document Destruction.

As of 2001, Arizona Document Destruction operates under an umbrella company known as Recycle1, which was established in 1997 and also recycles plastics using a large pelletizer and manages scrap paper recycling programs.

Williamson says the document destruction company gives 10 percent of its annual profits to the center in addition to a monthly stipend. “The more money we make, the more money they make,” she says of Arizona Document Destruction’s contribution to the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Growth and expansion

Arizona Document Destruction started to consider expanding its portfolio of services once paper records began declining in popularity, Williamson says. The business has since ventured into beverage and product destruction.

“We’ve always been a paper company, and the world is changing,” she says. “There isn’t as much paper, and there’s a lot more competition. One of the other things we did a lot of is printer recycling for large-scale commercial printers, and they are going by the wayside.”

To remain viable, Arizona Document Destruction needed to expand the scope of its destruction services, Williamson says.

Arizona Document Destruction began securely destroying products approximately five years ago. The company added beverage destruction two years ago.

Williamson says the product destruction began when a client approached the business asking if it could process a powdered product packaged in a plastic bottle. The bottle and the material inside it had value. To capture that value, the secure destruction company fabricated its own system where the bottles filled with the powder are shredded and then conveyed to a vibrating table that separates the shredded plastic from the powder. The plastic and the powder are recycled, she says.

Williamson says the beverage systems are similar. Employees unpack the beverages from cardboard boxes onto a conveyor belt. The beverages are conveyed into a shredder, and the liquids are separated from the packaging during this process. The liquids are put into a small holding tank before being transferred into tanker trucks and transported to dairies and farms. The cans or bottles are lifted into a system where they are drained of any remaining liquid and shipped loose for recycling.

Williamson says Arizona Document Destruction is looking to update one of its beverage destruction systems.

“We’re getting ready to buy a new shredder for [one of] the liquid system[s],” she says. “We have two liquid systems and two dry systems and have expanded from one shift to two full shifts.”

Arizona Document Destruction has a total of nine shredders on-site and three more at its plastic recycling facility from several different shredder manufacturers. The business has two shredders from Cumberland, New Berlin, Wisconsin, with one having been refabricated to act as a perforator for cans. Shredder models from Vecoplan LLC, High Point, North Carolina, and Allegheny Shredders, Delmont, Pennsylvania, are among the others. The company is getting ready to purchase a shredder from Shred-Tech, Cambridge, Ontario, for glass destruction, Williamson says.

Finding an end market

Companies approach Arizona Document Destruction to help with brand management and to promote sustainable disposal. Williamson says the destruction business tries to find an end market for the components of the products it destroys.

“We created a psyllium waste end product where we’re selling it to land management companies for hydroseeding and soil retention processes,” she says.

Regarding other materials recovered from Arizona Document Destruction’s product destruction jobs, “A lot of it just goes to a standard recycling operation,” Williamson says. “We have our own pelletizer, so whatever we can pelletize, we do so; we can bring it back to our own manufacturer.”

Williamson says much of the liquids the company recovers are sold to farms and dairies, where they are used as a feed additive for cattle.

If an end market doesn’t exist, the business tries to create one for its customers.

In addition to brand protection, she says Arizona Document Destruction clients also benefit from considerable savings on disposal. She provides an example of a customer that was paying more than $300,000 per year to landfill its product. However, since it became a customer of Arizona Document Destruction, the company has switched from landfilling to waste to energy and recycling for its obsolete, old or damaged products. Now, the client spends $17,000 per year in incineration fees.

Arizona Document Destruction has destroyed bowling balls, clothing and uniforms, e-cigarettes, hoverboards, cotton seeds, vitamins, baby items and golf club heads. “It’s been so much fun because it’s something new and challenging, and we’re figuring out what works and what doesn’t work,” Williamson says.

She says a big challenge on the beverage destruction side was avoiding explosions while handling carbonated beverages. “The one thing we didn’t take into [account] is that some material has been sitting in a hot warehouse,” she explains. “When we would get it, you would barely move it, and it would blow up.”

Now the business has added rubber bumpers to its liquid conveyor lines to avoid containers hitting the metal sides of the conveyors and exploding. It also has enclosed 90 percent of these processing lines so, if an explosion occurs, it’s contained.

But, despite this challenge, Williamson says Arizona Document Destruction plans to expand its services.

“I just see more and more companies wanting to know what happens to their stuff and realizing that throwing it in the trash isn’t a good thing and that it can easily get picked up by someone else and sold on Craigslist or eBay,” she says. “A lot more customers are wanting to make sure their brand is protected, and that should drive our expansion.”

The author is an assistant editor with the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at hheavilin@gie.net.