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.

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


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

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.

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.