No landfill for these computers2/12/09

Goodwill and Dell partner to recycle computers

Feb. 12, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Until last weekend, John Tracy’s basement had become an unwelcome home to old computer equipment he didn’t know what to do with. Old printers, keyboards, monitors and towers sat collecting dust for a few years, he said.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
John Tracy (left), a representative for Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, donates an old computer monitor for recycling on Monday with help from Goodwill employee Patrick Bessette.

But when he heard of a new partnership between Goodwill and Dell Computers that allows people to recycle old computer equipment for free, he couldn’t pass it up.

“This was great timing,” Tracy said of the program, known as ReConnect. “My basement was full.”

Tracy, who works for Sen. Patrick Leahy in Vermont, was at the ReConnect program’s kickoff event at the Goodwill store and drop-off location on Harvest Lane on Monday. Goodwill officials, and members of local and state governments and environmental organizations, were on hand to welcome the new recycling initiative.

Previously, residents had to either pay to dispose of computer waste at the Chittenden Solid Waste District or wait for Small Dog Electronics to host a recycling roundup. Now, recycling will be much easier and more convenient, said Michael Coughlin, Goodwill’s executive director.

Coughlin said ReConnect would be a welcome addition to conservation efforts in Vermont, which he considers the “most environmentally conscious state in the whole country.”

Coughlin said the main purpose was to divert computer parts from landfills, where they can create toxic waste in the ground. Instead, much of a computer can be recycled for use in other electronics.

Bob Fredericks, systems and operations manager for Goodwill, said Dell had approached Goodwill in 2004 about starting this program. The computer company had successfully implemented similar programs with other organizations and was looking to grow its recycling program.

To date, Dell has already recycled 50 million pounds of computer equipment, Fredericks said. Its goal is to reach 275 million pounds by 2010, an amount it is fast approaching, he said. He said Dell and Williston’s Goodwill are hoping to collect 950,000 pounds in the program’s first year.

“We’ve very fortunate Dell has paid a lot of attention to us,” Fredericks said.

At the Goodwill store, large bins have already been set up to sort the equipment. Labels indicating places for printers, scanners, monitors and other computer equipment made for easy sorting.

Fredericks said the ReConnect program has just begun across northern New England, with 25 drop-off locations in Maine, New Hampshire and northern Vermont. Williston is the only location in the state, something Fredericks would like to change soon. He said Goodwill is looking for locations in the Montpelier area.

To recycle old computer material, residents can stop by the Harvest Lane location and a Goodwill employee will help sort the parts. Recycling a computer through Goodwill is a tax-deductible donation. The organization will provide the donor with a receipt.

Williston’s Goodwill store has joined with Re-Source Partners, a nationwide recycling company that helps break down all computer parts for recycling. Some computers might also be deemed suitable enough to be donated to organizations or people in need of working equipment, Fredericks added.

The ReConnect Program only accepts computer equipment and not old televisions, Frederick said. People looking to dispose of TVs should bring them to CSWD, the district’s communications coordinator Clare Innes said. The disposal costs $5 to $15 depending on the size, she said.

Innes also said while CSWD does accept computer equipment for a fee at the Redmond Road facility, it would spread the word about Goodwill’s free drop-off location.

“Everyone is working together to keep (computer waste) out of the landfill,” Innes said.

State officials showered praise on Goodwill and Dell for the new program. Dennis Feckert, a representative with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, said he would tell the state Legislature about the program as an example of a major company “stepping up” and leading recycling efforts.

“This is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking we could use in the rest of the state,” Feckert said.

Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire agreed.

“As resources become more limited, it’s important that businesses need to take responsibility for the products they make,” McGuire said.

McGuire, who said there’s a closet at Town Hall with some computer equipment that could be recycled, brought an older flat screen monitor to drop off during the event. Goodwill employee Patrick Bessette quickly sorted the monitor to its correct bin.

Bessette also helped Tracy distribute his large amount of computer parts, from monitors to random cords. Speaking for himself, as well as for Sen. Leahy, Tracy said the new program would make a difference “not only on the environmental side, but in people’s lives.”