Abt Electronics: The Greenest A/V Retailer in the Country
Putting lights on sensors and recycling paper is one thing, but Chicago's Abt has its own recycling plant and runs its 350,000-square-foot store completely off the grid.
Abt Electronics’ 8,000-square-foot recycling plant
April 22, 2010 by Julie Jacobson

We’re confident we can say that no specialty A/V retailer in the country runs a greener shop than Abt Electronics in the Chicago suburb of Glenview, Ill.

First of all, the 350,000-square-foot namesake store is “completely off the grid,” says principal Mike Abt, a self-professed hippie.

During a recent tour of the store, Abt showed off power central. “It’s like a nuclear facility back here,” he says.

Biodiesel fuels the facility, but Abt nevertheless has a couple of wind turbines and solar panels for good measure. The company is starting to sell and install these products.

“Whatever the next new power thing is,” he says, “we’re on it.”

Next door to the store is an 8,000-square-foot recycling plant. Virtually everything that Abt sells can be recycled –- from dishwashers to TVs to the boxes and Styrofoam they came in.

“I don’t want to have any [leftover] garbage at all,” says Abt.

In fact, he says, “We’re one of the few companies that recycle Styrofoam.”

The Styrofoam is heated up and dispensed as a thick stream of goo, which hardens into something like a plastic ruler. The hard stuff is ground up into pieces, and then sold as insulation.

Scrap metal is fairly lucrative these days –- about $215 per ton

Abt recycles gear from its own customers, of course, but it also accepts junk from the general public.

By law, no Illinois recycler, including Abt, can charge for electronics recycling. Abt gets reimbursed from participating manufacturers, but eats the cost on everything else.

In the end, he says, the Abt recycling plant just about breaks even.

Besides the feel-goodliness of recycling, though, there is a possible side benefit: “We might get the customer to buy from us when they drop something off,” Abt says.

Oh, and one more thing. Abt has its own car wash to clean the company trucks. The water, naturally, is recycled.

More at http://www.abt.com/green/

Mike Abt checks energy usage in the company’s biodiesel-fueled power plant

One of very few Styrofoam-recycling machines in the area

Testing out some solar panels (above in the sunny atrium) and wind turbines (below) for sale

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Julie Jacobson - Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

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