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.

What does ISO certification mean?

By Ron Baugh, Quality Assurance Manager

Our Industrial Services division just received its third, three-year ISO 9001:2008 Certificate of Registration.

For those of you not familiar, ISO stands for International Organization for Standardization and is a widely recognized, quality-management system that helps ensure we meet strict customer and regulatory requirements.

For those of you who are familiar, we had an excellent audit this year, with zero “non-conformances” and zero “areas of concern.” Audited annually, we have maintained this level of excellence five years in a row.

First certified in August 2008, Goodwill Industries of West Michigan is one of just 21 Goodwill organizations internationally to hold the certification. (There are 165 separate Goodwill organizations in the U.S. and Canada, with a presence in 14 other countries.)

So what does being certified mean and why is it important? Our Industrial Services division contracts with area manufacturers to provide light industrial services such a packaging, kitting, and assembly. Many local companies (such as automotive suppliers) require its subcontractors have ISO certification to even be considered for the work. Certification opened us up to a greater pool of customers, which translates into more paid work for our program participants.

Additionally ISO’s quality management system helps us manage our industrial operations and provides the foundation to better customer satisfaction, staff motivation, and ongoing improvement. ISO helps us achieve consistent results and continually improve the process for effectiveness and efficiency.

We survey our customers regularly, and certification has shown an increase in customer satisfaction. Since certification, we have also experienced a growth in sales, as well as a stronger financial performance. It has allowed us to diversify and add new customers.

Most importantly, for the people that we serve, it means more work opportunities for our center-based employment programs. Our program participants are happier when they are busy working and what a joy to see their faces come payday! They are so proud of their weekly paycheck and appreciate the value of that paycheck. I love walking through the work center on payday and being part of their gratification as they show me their paychecks and say, “Ron look at what I’ve earned from all the good work I have done!”

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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

 

Our business works so people can

By Rick Roberts, Industrial Services Manager

With 2012 coming to a close, and starting a fresh, bright 2013, it is a great time to reflect on our growth and improvements over the past year.

Goodwill’s industrial services department is a challenging yet interesting division to work in. Our ISO 9001:2008-certified work center provides a variety of contracted industrial services (collating, packaging, assembly, labeling, etc.) for local companies (see my personal video tour below for a sampling of our work).

Our unique and diverse workforce is comprised of Goodwill job program participants ranging from persons with severe intellectual or multiple disabilities, to ex-offenders transitioning back into the community. In turn, these individuals learn new skills, build their self-esteem, and become productive members of the workforce and the community.

Our workers are eager and motivated, which makes my job such a rewarding personal experience every day. My staff and I strive to keep everything upbeat and focused, while at the same time concentrating on the serious business of meeting customers’ deadlines and expectations, so that we deliver a quality product on time, every time.

When I began working at Goodwill in July of 2011, the industrial services division was in a bit of a holding pattern. Still climbing out of a struggling economy, we lost some of our customers and work volume. With a renewed focus on quality and performance, we implemented new procedures that focused on continuous improvement in our delivery of services … not only externally, but internally as well.

The results in 2012 were great. Our on-time product delivery score was 99.8% and we significantly increased our quality benchmark scores. We also increased the volume of work with our current industrial clients, while adding three new customers! The results were proven in our annual customer satisfaction survey, netting us the highest score ever received, a positive rating of 98%.

In addition, we reorganized the entire work center using “Kaizen” or quality improvement techniques, and improved and maintained our warehouse inventory accuracy to 96.4%. Our electronic recycling initiatives were also solid for 2012. We shipped 776,556 pounds of computers and 682,780 pounds of televisions to our third-party recyclers.

Finally, providing paid work opportunities and skill development for people with barriers to employment is always our most important measure of success. My involvement and interaction at Goodwill has been nothing but a positive influence in my life. It is a pleasure to come to work every day and interact with the workers and my staff. They truly are an amazing group of people.

So what will 2013 bring? We continue to satisfy and maintain our employer-partner contract relationships, while continuing to attract new customers, grow the business, and provide expanded job opportunities to those we serve.