Breaking down OK in this business

BELLINGHAM – In 1988, Rud Browne didn’t know where to go with his career.

At the time, Browne had just finished consulting work for a bar-code company in Canada, had just gotten married and was applying for Canadian citizenship. While waiting to become a citizen, he had about a six-month period when he couldn’t work.

He was interested in starting a business, but he also wanted to do something that matched his views on the environment. He spent about three months pondering, and came up with Ryzex Group, a seller of new and used data collection equipment, including bar-code machines.

Much of the company’s business involves taking old equipment, such as scanners used at grocery store checkout stands, refurbishing the product and re-selling them.

Today, the company, headquartered in Bellingham, brings in $68 million in annual sales and employs 350 people worldwide, 120 in Bellingham. Just as important to Browne, however, is that the company is close to reaching a personal goal to make the corporate office 100 percent waste-free.

“To fix environmental problems that we face today, you have to show that you can make money doing it,” said Browne, the company’s chief executive and now a Bellingham resident. “When I decided to take this career path, I wanted to prove you can get bigger and better as a company by doing the right thing.”

The products Ryzex usually deals with include computer monitors, which include components harmful to the environment, such as lead. In the past three months, Browne estimates that the Bellingham facility has saved 140,000 pounds of waste from landfills.

While the company has recycled in the past, it began a more aggressive campaign in August, recycling everything from steel to bubble wrap and tracking the results. It also started a program called FoodPlus, which encourages employees to recycle everything from paper towels to leftover lunch.

“Ryzex was largely created because of a passion for keeping e-waste out of landfills,” Browne said. “I feel we have a moral obligation to try and reuse everything that comes in here, and we’re getting close.”

Ron Biery, who heads Ryzex’s recycling program, said the program has worked out better than they expected.

“It turns out that it is not that difficult, once you realize what needs to be done,” Biery said. “It’s just a matter of breaking things down to raw material. The raw material is very much in demand.”

At this point, the recycling program is operating at a loss, but Browne expects to turn a profit within the next few years.

“I want to show that it can be done,” Browne said.

While working on the recycling program, Browne has been able to significantly expand the company. Ryzex has seen double-digit growth in recent years, and was ranked as one of the fastest growing businesses in by the Puget Sound Business Journal in 2002 and 2003.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Members of Gravitics' team and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen stand in front of a mockup of a space module interior on Thursday, August 17, 2023 at Gravitics' Marysville facility. Left to right: Mark Tiner, government affairs representative; Jiral Shah, business development; U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen; Mike DeRosa, marketing; Scott Macklin, lead engineer. (Gravitics.)
Marysville startup prepares for space — the financial frontier

Gravitics is building space station module prototypes to one day house space travelers and researchers.

Orca Mobility designer Mike Lowell, left, and CEO Bill Messing at their office on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023 in Granite Falls, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Could a Granite Falls startup’s three-wheeler revolutionize delivery?

Orca Mobility’s battery-powered, three-wheel truck is built on a motorcycle frame. Now, they aim to make it self-driving.

Catherine Robinweiler leads the class during a lab session at Edmonds College on April 29, 2021. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Grant aids apprenticeship program in Mukilteo and elsewhere

A $5.6 million U.S. Department of Labor grant will boost apprenticeships for special education teachers and nurses.

Peoples Bank is placing piggy banks with $30 around Washington starting Aug. 1.
(Peoples Bank)
Peoples Bank grant program seeks proposals from nonprofits

Peoples Bank offers up to $35,000 in Impact Grants aimed at helping communities. Applications due Sept. 15.

Workers build the first all-electric commuter plane, the Eviation Alice, at Eviation's plant on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Arlington’s Eviation selects Seattle firm to configure production plane

TLG Aerospace chosen to configure Eviation Aircraft’s all-electric commuter plane for mass production.

Jim Simpson leans on Blue Ray III, one of his designs, in his shop on Friday, August 25, 2023, in Clinton, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Whidbey Island master mechanic building dream car from “Speed Racer”

Jim Simpson, 68, of Clinton, is using his knowledge of sports cars to assemble his own Mach Five.

Inside the new Boeing 737 simulator at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo, Washington on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
New Boeing 737 simulator takes ‘flight’ in Mukilteo

Pilots can test their flying skills or up their game at Simulation Flight in Mukilteo.

An Amazon worker transfers and organizes items at the new PAE2 Amazon Fulfillment Center on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amazon cuts ribbon on colossal $355M fulfillment center in Arlington

At 2.8 million square feet, the facility is the largest of its kind in Washington. It can hold 40 million “units” of inventory.

A computer rendering of the North Creek Commerce Center industrial park in development at 18712 Bothell-Everett Highway. (Kidder Mathews)
Developer breaks ground on new Bothell industrial park

The North Creek Commerce Center on Bothell Everett Highway will provide warehouse and office space in three buildings.

Dan Bates / The Herald
Funko president, Brian Mariotti is excited about the growth that has led his company to need a 62,000 square foot facility in Lynnwood.
Photo Taken: 102312
Former Funko CEO resigns from the Everett company

Brian Mariotti resigned Sept. 1, six weeks after announcing he was taking a six-month sabbatical from the company.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Paper or plastic? Snohomish County may require businesses to take cash

County Council member Nate Nehring proposed an ordinance to ban cashless sales under $200. He hopes cities will follow suit.

A crowd begins to form before a large reception for the opening of Fisherman Jack’s at the Port of Everett on Wednesday, August 30, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Seafood with a view: Fisherman Jack’s opens at Port of Everett

“The port is booming!” The new restaurant is the first to open on “restaurant row” at the port’s Waterfront Place.