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E-Waste Recycling With a Cause at Tech Dump

Keys to a Brighter Future: How Recycling Electronics Creates Jobs and Prevents Waste 

Tech Dump is creating a positive social impact in Minnesota through e-waste recycling. 

In 2010, Tech Dump began with a simple goal: to train and employ individuals who typically face barriers to entering the workforce. In pursuit of that goal, the group’s founders experimented with refurbishing and selling various items donated to their organization, looking for a model that would create a lot of jobs with marketable skills.

“After about a year of picking up corporate conference room furniture, we were asked about picking up electronics,” says Amanda LaGrange, CEO of Tech Dump. After testing out electronics recycling they realized it was a powerful job creator, and were soon picking up computers instead of furniture.

Hitting the Motherboard

When electronics are discarded in a landfill or otherwise improperly disposed of, toxic metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic leach into the groundwater and produce devastating effects on both people and the environment. The adverse health effects of these toxins include brain, liver, kidney, heart and skeletal system damage. 

With a full-time staff and numerous trainees, Tech Dump ensures that every device they receive is either recycled or refurbished properly before being sold back to the community. For every 98,600 pounds of e-waste accepted, they are able to add 1 full-time position to their recycling team.

In 2016, Tech Dump:

  • Employed 76 people that faced barriers to employment.
  • Processed 4 million pounds of e-waste.

"We are using electronics recycling as a job creator. It's recycling with a social purpose."
Amanda LaGrange | Tech Dump

Cost is one of the main obstacles to recycling participation, so Tech Dump offers free recycling for numerous electronics. The only exceptions are specific types of television sets and monitors, printers and a few other miscellaneous items.

Tech Dump's Recycling Process:

  1. Sorting. Each item that is donated or collected is put through a thorough sorting process to determine if it has reuse potential or should be recycled. 
  2. Data Wiping. This is an important process that wipes all information from the devices, and Tech Dump is certified by the National Association of Information Destruction. 
  3. Upgrading or Materials Separation. After being wiped, the device is either upgraded to get it ready for resale or broken down to its base components for recycling. 

“Last year we hosted 48 collection events, and we really like those because of how convenient they are for the community,” Amanda explains. Old electronics are donated and collected at a recycling event, or via a residential or corporate pickup. “Corporate pickups are great because most companies do an overhaul about every three to four years. Most of the corporate assets are enterprise grade systems, with up to five years of life left,” says Amanda.

Once refurbished and upgraded, enterprise systems and home computers are sold via a retail counterpart of Tech Dump, aptly named Tech Discounts. Those sales directly fund the group’s recycling and job training programs.  

How to Tell If Your Recycler is Reputable

There are a few key certifications that indicate how reputable an e-waste recycling facility is. 

Responsible Recycling (R2) Certification
This is the most recognized certification in e-waste recycling. 

“This audits us in three main areas. Data security and making sure that any device bearing data never leaves the facility. Employee safety, ensuring they return home as safe as they arrive in addition to protocols, and the end process. The last focuses on making sure nothing is sent to the landfill, and that we don’t export unprocessed materials.”
Amanda LaGrange | Tech Dump

Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher
This is a partnership that provides “professionally refurbished computers” complete with Microsoft software that’s pre-installed for home or commercial use. All partners must adhere to data-wiping standards in addition to providing asset management services and IT asset disposition offerings.

National Association of Information Destruction
The National Association of Information Destruction has an AAA certification program which establishes that an e-waste recycler is in compliance with standards for performing and verifying data destruction. 

Impact Recyclers

Tech Dump partnered with other e-waste recycling organizations to form a national network of certified businesses called Impact Recyclers. “We all operate as enterprises focused on workforce development,” says Amanda. Together with Recycle Force, Comprenew and Homeboy Industries they have processed more than 20 million pounds of e-waste and created valuable jobs for underserved members of the community.

To learn more about their recycling efforts, see a schedule of recycling events or to schedule a corporate pickup, check out the Tech Dump website