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


In with the new … recycle the old

By Mike Paulson, Environmental Services Manager

With a few days to spare, I finally managed to polish off my Christmas gift list. I purchased a new HDTV for my wife, a Blu-Ray player for my dad, and a laptop for my daughters to share.  I know on Christmas Day I’ll have a household full of happy people, but I have a problem to solve as well: What do I do with my old electronics?

I’m certainly not going to throw them away.  Computers, TVs and other electronics contain toxic elements such as lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury. Unfortunately, an estimated 4 million tons of electronic waste (or e-waste) ends up in our nation’s landfills each year, leaching these hazardous materials into our groundwater.

And if some of my electronics still work well or can be refurbished, why not extend their life by giving someone else a chance to use them?

That’s where Goodwill comes in. Goodwill accepts your unwanted computers and televisions – in working condition or not – and resells or recycles them at no cost to you.

Goodwill’s long history of being environmentally conscious extends to our handling of all electronics. Nonworking or unsaleable items are taken apart (or “demanufactured”) and sorted by Goodwill workers to prepare them for shipment to one of our third-party recyclers. In partnership with Dell, Goodwill guarantees that nothing is shipped overseas, protecting third-world countries from the same exposure to hazardous waste.

Revenue generated from the sale of items in our stores, or sold to recyclers, is channeled back to funding our mission of providing job training and employment services. Additionally, the demanufacturing and sorting component creates paid work opportunities for people with disabilities or others enrolled in a Goodwill job training program.

Goodwill’s donation process is easy and painless. With 16 conveniently located donation drive-thru locations throughout our West Michigan territory, attendants are on hand to take your items and offer you a tax-deduction receipt.

This holiday season, Dell is offering a coupon to each person who pledges to donation their old computer equipment. Take the pledge today to receive a $20 coupon to use on your next Dell purchase. Offer ends December 31, 2012.

So, as you put that shiny new gift under the tree, please think of the environment and Goodwill.