Changes in Goodwill’s electronic recycling program

By Stan Brown, Industrial Services Manager 

A few months ago I blogged about recycling electronics and my great experience touring the facility of our recycling partner, Valley City Electronic Recycling in Grand Rapids.

Everything we do at Goodwill is driven by our mission of providing work opportunities, skill development, and family strengthening resources throughout the West Michigan communities we serve. We recycle electronics primarily because it generates jobs. The process involved in sorting, packing, and palletizing donated electronics provides valuable paid work experience and job skills training for people enrolled in Goodwill transitional employment programming. In addition, a lot of hazardous material is diverted from the waste stream.

For many years now, Goodwill has been committed to, and proud of, providing convenient television donation and recycling as a free service to the community. In the past, the manufacturers of TVs paid a subsidy to the recycling industry to make the process financially sustainable for all parties. That subsidy has declined to the point that it is no longer viable for Valley City and other recyclers to process the older-style cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and CRT computer monitors without applying a surcharge to those who collect the TVs. So instead of the recycler paying Goodwill for those items, Goodwill will be required to pay the recycler to process these select items we collect. Unfortunately, that is not a viable option for Goodwill and is not compatible with our mission. As a result, we are no longer accepting donations of the old-style CRT TVs and CRT monitors. For the same reason, we are also no longer able to accept donations of the large projection-style TVs.

It is important to note that Goodwill continues to accept recycle a wide range of flat-screen televisions, computers, and many other electronic devices … in any condition. Those donations do indeed support our mission and help create jobs, so please keep them coming! We sincerely thank you!

To view a list of all the items we DO continue to accept, view here.

Goodwill Honors America’s Workers on Labor Day

By Richard Carlson, President and CEO

As a means of honoring the economic and social contributions of U.S. workers, Labor Day first became a federal holiday 120 years ago, in 1894. Just eight years later, the Rev. Edgar J. Helms founded Goodwill Industries. Then, as today, Goodwill has been providing the programs and supports that workers often need to achieve their full potential, throughout North America and here in the West Michigan area.

We are reminded on Labor Day of the power of work to transform lives. Good-paying jobs allow people from all backgrounds to support themselves and their families, and contribute to the country’s economic vitality. And those who are unemployed or underemployed invariably struggle to make ends meet.

Recent statistics show that the number of unemployed Americans has hovered right around the 10 million mark this year, showing a slight improvement from 2013 figures. While people are finding jobs and the number of long-term unemployed persons is dropping slowly, approximately 2 million people are described as being marginally attached to the labor market. That means they wanted to and were available for work, but hadn’t looked for a job in the previous month. Among those, approximately 700,000 Americans are considered discouraged workers, meaning they’ve stopped looking for work because they believe no jobs exist for them. Together, we still have much work to do in growing our economic health and helping our neighbors prepare for, find and keep good jobs.

Goodwill works hard to meet the needs of all job seekers, including those here in West Michigan. In the past year, Goodwill agencies helped more than 9.8 million people train for careers and helped more than 261,000 people earn jobs. In West Michigan we placed 1,380 people in new employment. Goodwill also provided the supporting services workers need to be successful, such as work readiness and job retention training, Beyond Jobs services for women, financial wellness coaching and supports as well as career planning and development.

Everyone can take part. By donating to Goodwill of Industries of West Michigan donors help create opportunities for those looking for work. That’s because the items sold in Goodwill stores go to fund Goodwill’s skills training and job placement services for people throughout the region.

Electronic recycling benefits community and Mother Earth

By Stan Brown, Industrial Services Manager

“NONE of this ends up in the landfill!”

And so began my tour of Valley City Electronic Recycling in Grand Rapids. Stacked at one end of the facility I saw an incredible variety of discarded computers, TVs, computer monitors, printers, keyboards, stereos, cell phones, and other office equipment. All of this would have been headed for the landfill if it had not been donated for recycling.

Valley City is certified as an electronic recycling company adhering to the Recycling Practices Standard. Known as “R2,” this stringent standard is particularly focused on electronics that contain cathode ray tubes, circuit boards, items containing mercury/PCBs, and batteries – seeking to ensure that these materials are not incinerated or land filled. They disassemble the equipment to maximize the commodity value of the recovered metals, plastics, glass and circuit boards.

Electronics contain hazards from toxic heavy metals. Lead is the largest contributor to this problem and is found in the solder used on circuit boards. There is also four to eight pounds of lead in each television and CRT monitor! Other heavy metals include mercury, cadmium, and chromium. Flame retardant chemicals are also present in the plastic housings. Proper processing keeps these out of the waste stream.

I saw bales of recovered plastic destined to be reground and blended with new material, bundles of metal headed to scrap metal processors, computer hard drives being shredded to destroy any data, TV tubes being cut apart to separate the two distinct types of glass each with a different value and reuse, and circuit boards boxed up for processing to recover the small quantities of valuable metals. I had no idea there was so much potential reuse and value, not to mention the entire industry built around this process. What I did NOT see was a dumpster at the end of the line headed for the landfill!

Goodwill partners with Valley City to process the electronics donated at the Goodwill Stores and Donation Centers throughout West Michigan. Working TVs are sold at our stores and everything else is processed, sorted, and palletized for pickup by Goodwill program participants. Revenue generated from the program pays workers’ wages and Goodwill avoids costly dumping fees. And one of the best benefits of all is that over a million pounds per year is kept out of landfills!

Donating is free and easy. Simply take your unwanted electronics to any of our 18 donation drop-off locations or participate in any of our upcoming community recycling events!

To list a few of acceptable items click here.

APRIL 21-25: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Electronic Recycling Events
Nichols Paper & Supply, 1391 Judson Road, Spring Lake
MCC, 221 South Quarterline Road, Muskegon

APRIL 22-24
Cross-River Recycling Challenge
Whitehall and Montague Middle Schools

APRIL 26: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Muskegon County Spring Recycling and Collection Event
1350 East Keating Avenue, Muskegon

MAY 17: 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
MCC Mayfest Electronic Recycling


Be Aware of Your Clutter This Week!

By guest blogger Lorie Marrero, author of The Clutter Diet

Evidently the fourth week of March is National Clutter Awareness Week. (Not sure who makes these up, but thank you!) You’re probably keenly aware of the clutter you already have, but this week let’s focus on awareness of how to prevent accumulating more.

There are three kinds of preventable clutter that accumulate in your life:

  • Purchased Clutter. Obviously, this is stuff that you pay money to bring into your home. Slankets (or Snuggies), new boots, season 2 Lost DVDs, magazines, groceries, and all that you spend your hard-earned cash to enjoy. Whether you are standing at the checkout in the store or you are clicking the checkout button online, be mindful as you open your wallet that almost everything you purchase ends up in your home or car or workplace, and it requires some kind of maintenance or attention. You will need to read it, recycle it, replace the batteries in it, fold it, store it, clean it, repair it, or just add it to your piles.
  • Acquired Clutter. Sometimes “clutter happens.”This is physical stuff that you did not have to shell out cash to take home — you either inherited it, received it as a gift or hand-me-down, got it in the mail, brought it home from school or work, or grabbed it as a freebie giveaway item. Regardless of the source, remember you do have the choice of bringing in the door or not.
  • Allowed Clutter. Time and communication clutter are invisible, not physically taking up space, but they are mentally cluttering your life and that can be just as bad. By not being a good steward of your time, you can allow too many commitments to burden you. (See previous post, “Overdoers Anonymous”) And by not managing your emails and phone calls, you allow them to crowd out time from more important tasks you could be doing.

Here are a few tips to help prevent purchased, acquired, or allowed clutter:

  • If you check your mail at a community block of mailboxes or a post office box and they already have a trash can there, stop right there and get rid of any unwanted junk mail before you take it home.
  • We have our wallet reminder sleeves you can download as a bonus item when you get our weekly newsletter — they have the five important Clutter Prevention Questions you should ask before purchasing anything. You can store your favorite credit or debit card in them as a first line of defense when you open your wallet to buy something!
  • Consider alternative gift-giving arrangements in your family, especially in the holiday season. Just kids, no gifts, drawing names…be creative and don’t just buy for everyone because you always have before.
  • Remember that people make their entire life’s work figuring out how to sell things to you, and they are VERY clever. Don’t fall for traps like “free gift with minimum purchase,” or “free shipping” if you were not already going to purchase the minimum number of items in the first place. Be a savvy shopper and be protective of your wallet.
  • Along with ending telemarketing calls quickly and cleanly, be also aware of “friendly fire” phone calls — ones you actually enjoy but take up way too much of your time. If you must chat, get a headset and fold some laundry or clean something while you talk.

And finally, being organized is in itself a great way to prevent further clutter. If you have visibility and knowledge of what you already own, you are unlikely to purchase duplicate or similar items by mistake. I am glad we are having this “awareness” week because as they say, awareness of a problem is the first step in fixing it. If you can be more mindful of what you purchase, acquire, and allow and realize that you always have a choice … you are halfway there!

Want more organizing tips? Start following The Clutter Diet Blog today!

Follow me on Twitter for my Daily #ClutterTweetTip!

First sign of spring = Younkers Goodwill Sale

By Jim Cherney, Retail Operations Director

Each year – as we anticipate the end to our long, cold, Michigan winter and our donation stream trickles to a drip – we are blessed with the Younkers Goodwill Spring Sale. It is the much-needed, early March boost we can count on to lift our weary spirits!

This year, the sale kicks off on March 13 and runs through Saturday March 29. It’s the perfect incentive to inspire folks to start cleaning out their closets with the thawing of the snow and warmer days ahead.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the sale, it works like this: anyone donating to Goodwill during this two-and-a-half week period – either at a Goodwill store or Younkers – receives a 25% off Younkers coupon for each item donated. Donate six items and you get six coupons. Donate 25 items? Get 25 coupons! (You get the idea.) And the coupons are good toward items that rarely (if ever) go on sale.

Donors are not only rewarded with discounts on new spring items, but they help make a difference in our community by supporting Goodwill’s mission of job training and placement programs for people who need helping finding a job.

Savvy Goodwill shoppers also know that this is an excellent time to shop at Goodwill as a new crop of high-quality donations begin to refill our stores.

We are so grateful to Younkers and their ongoing support and belief in our mission. Held each spring and fall, the sale is the largest and longest-standing department store donation drive with Goodwill. Since its inception in 1994, the cause-marketing collaboration has generated an estimated value of more than $211 million in revenue to support Goodwill’s employment services.

So what are you waiting for? Start cleaning out your closets. Spring will be here before you know it!

For even more discounts, and a chance to win prizes, visit Younkers’ Million Acts of Goodwill website at

Rekindling the spirit of the season

By Drew Robinson, Resource Development Coordinator

Every year at this time, I am amazed how differently adults and children experience the holiday season.

When I was young, I remember Christmas being a time of magic and mystery: everything was perfect! For the week-and-a-half of vacation from school, we spent our days sledding, building snowmen (and later, snow forts), and would watch with excitement as the stack of presents under the tree grew larger each night.

When I became an adult, the snow and the season had become far less appealing. Christmas shopping and wrapping presents consumed most of my free time. I agonized over what gifts to buy my parents, siblings, and in-laws, and wondered does it even matter? I worried would Dad appreciate the cordless drill I got him as much I enjoyed (cough cough) receiving a weed wacker? Despite our best intentions, we resorted more and more on giving and getting gift cards. What was the point of it?

This year, my family is trying something different. My children and their kid cousins will all receive the normal pile of gifts – toys, clothes, etc. – but for the adults, we will be making donations to charities in each other’s honor instead.  We’re already enjoying the reduction of shopping anxiety and fewer trips to the mall, and we will not miss standing in long return lines, or stockpiling those unused gift cards in our wallets. (And speaking of magic and mystery, it shouldn’t take us an hour to pack up the car after dinner on Christmas night!)

We will be practicing what I believe Christmas really is all about: celebrating the blessings we have received by helping others in need. The surprise bonus: it feels really good.

As we enter the last few weeks of this holiday season, consider becoming one of the growing number of families using this approach to redefine the season: for yourselves, and for your children (believe me, they won’t want a weed wacker in 30 years either).  As you do, I hope you will consider Goodwill when selecting your financial charitable gifts.

For over 60 years, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan has helped thousands of people in West Michigan with barriers to employment find, and keep, good jobs in our communities. By providing opportunities for people to earn their own income, we help them experience the dignity that comes with independence: the ability to provide for themselves and their families, and make a meaningful contribution to society.

Giving to Goodwill couldn’t be much easier either: just click on the “Donate Online” tab at the top of our homepage at, and you can complete the process on a few easy steps. You can even let us know who you are honoring with your gift, so we can provide them with an acknowledgement of your giving.

Giving to those you love by giving to others in need: sounds like a gift that keeps on giving, doesn’t it?

May you rediscover the magic of the season as I have!

Happy Holidays!


Goodwill is thrilled to announce that Beyoncé is lending her voice to help Goodwill® transform lives for GOOD. As she kicked off her “The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour,” she announced she was joining Goodwill to help change lives by putting people back to work.

“Goodwill helps people get back to work by providing education, job training and placement,” Beyoncé said. “I wanted to team up with an organization that puts people first and works every day to help them improve and re-establish their lives.”

Beyoncé knows the power of hard work and encourages her fans to support Goodwill’s efforts by promoting donation drives during her North American concerts. Goodwill will host a mobile donation center onsite at 28 tour stops in 23 North American cities, collecting clothing, electronics and small household goods. The revenue from the sale of these donations will directly benefit Goodwill’s mission to provide training and career services for people with disadvantages, such as homelessness, and a lack of education or work experience, as well as those with physical, mental and emotional disabilities.

Michigan fans who want to join Beyoncé in supporting Goodwill can donate at her concert at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit on July 20, or by simply donating to any of our Goodwill donation centers at anytime! When you donate to Goodwill — whether it is the contents of your whole closet, a pair of shoes or $10 — you’re helping someone in your community get back to work. You can also make a difference by giving a financial gift here.

Everyone deserves the chance to reach self-sustainability through the power of work. Let your friends on Facebook and Twitter know you support Beyoncé and Goodwill’s mission to transform lives through the power of work by using the hashtag #beygood.

Students “Go Green” with Goodwill

By guest blogger Susan Tate, Whitehall Middle School TeacherParade

Whitehall Middle School Environmental Club at the 2012 White Lake Christmas Parade.

What do you get when you take 40 energetic, earth-loving middle school kids and provide them with the opportunity and resources to create change within their school and community? Over the last four years, I have had the extreme privilege of finding out what these kids can accomplish in my role as the advisor for the Whitehall Middle School Environmental Club.

Founded in December 2008 as an extracurricular activity for students in grades 6-8, the goal of the club was to provide opportunities for stewardship projects within the school and greater Whitehall community, and to fund these projects through small fundraising projects, grants, and community partnerships.

Our accomplishments include:

  • Initiating and facilitating our middle school recycling program. We purchased recycling bins for paper for every classroom and school offices.
  • Fundraising for the Michigan Arbor Day Alliance.
  • Weeding and mulching along the bike trail with help from the Muskegon Conservation District.
  • Working with the Muskegon Conservation District on their Benston Road reforestation project.
  • Hosting recycling drives for cell phones (American Red Cross fundraiser for Haiti), plastic grocery bags, and plastic bottle caps.
  • Building bluebird houses and creating wildlife habitat on our school grounds.
  • Planting native perennials at Alcoa-Howmet’s native landscaping project.
  • Donating to EARTH University in Costa Rica.
  • Purchasing signs and recycling bins for our football field.
  • Planning and presenting “White Lake Critter Capers” at one of the White Lake Community Library’s Family Fun Nights.

These are just a few of the activities we’ve worked on over the last four years. The students that I work with have no shortage of ideas and energy. It’s fun to introduce them to community partners that can help make their dreams a reality. Our most recent partnership has been with Goodwill Industries of West Michigan on our Cross-River Recycling Challenge with Montague’s NBC Middle School ( Most of the students in the club had no idea about how much Goodwill does in our community for those in need. We are excited to help support their mission while helping Mother Earth at the same time!

ImageHelper.ashxSusan Tate teaches Earth & Environmental Science to 8th graders at Whitehall Middle School. She was named Middle School Science Teacher of the Year in 2012 by the Michigan Science Teachers Association. Under her leadership, her environmental club won $25,000 in the Lexus Eco Challenge last year. Her passion for sustainability and environmental issues takes her outside of the classroom and she shares her experiences with her students. In 2011, she visited Costa Rica to study global environmental initiatives as part of Toyota International Teacher Program, and earlier this year she was part of a carefully selected team of educators and environmentalists from 28 different countries to participate in an expedition to Antarctica with the group 2041.

Your donations matter

By Richard Carlson, President and CEO

A recent USA Today article revealed the fact that castoff clothing dropped off in parking lot donation bins doesn’t always end up with charities devoted to helping the poor. More and more, clothing collection bins are being operated by for-profit recycling firms or non-profits that give only a tiny portion of their proceeds to charity.

While these quickly proliferating donation bins may appear to be charitable in nature, they are not, and the resulting profits garnered by these operators leave our communities along with the goods they collect. We have monitored the significant growth of these collection bins in Michigan over the past year and recognize their prolific increase in our own West Michigan communities as recent as the past two to three months.

Goodwill Industries and other organizations in the charitable sector rely heavily upon the generosity and kindness of donors to help us achieve our mission. For Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, over 90% of the revenue from our sales of donated items through our network of Goodwill stores goes directly toward our employment and training programs and services that in 2012 served 20,916 people who were unemployed or underemployed right here in West Michigan.

In contrast, the most recent federal tax return from Planet Aid – an organization whose yellow donation bins are now beginning to dot our community landscape – shows that just 28% of its $36.5 million in spending went to its international aid programs in 2011. The bulk of its spending went to collect and process clothes for recycling. Planet Aid states its mission focus is the “protection of natural habitat by collecting and recycling 50,000 tons of used textiles.” But the low percentage of money going to international aid programs earned Planet Aid an “F” from ratings organization Charity Watch, which examines how nonprofits spend their money. Charity watch gave an “A” to Goodwill Industries and the Better Business Bureau gave our Goodwill organization an “A+” rating. As for Planet Aid, the Better Business Bureau has stated that they did not meet the 20 criteria to be accredited as a charity.

In addition, we are seeing other dubious organizations entering our communities with donation bins including the Cancer Federation’s dark blue bins and the bright green collection boxes of for-profit company Better World Books that donates a “confidential” undisclosed percentage to charity.

Our overall message for donors is to know who they are giving to and what they are supporting.