The Dell Reconnect program provides solutions to e-waste

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By Andrew Deck

When most people find an old dusty desktop on a shelf in their garage or a box full of cords and wires in the back of a closet, their initial thought is, “This is junk.” Their second thought is often, “Where is the nearest dumpster?”

But most don’t realize that this “junk” has value. If properly disposed of and recycled, broken or outdated electronics, known as e-waste, can create green jobs that better our environment and find use in the manufacturing of new electronics.

The Dell Reconnect program, a partnership with Goodwill, attempts to maximize this value and ensure that e-waste is managed in an environmentally safe way.

Computers, monitors, printers, scanners, keyboards and cables — Dell Reconnect accepts all of this. Any brand of electronics, in any condition, is accepted for free at more than 2,000 participating Goodwill locations across the United States for consumers. All donations are tax deductible.

Simply pack your used computer equipment into the car with other household donations and drop it off at a participating Goodwill location where the trained staff will inspect each item and determine whether to reuse, refurbish or recycle it.

Reuse means that a device or its components are in good working order and can be resold in a Goodwill store after it is cleaned and tested by technicians. Refurbish means that a device is in need of an upgrade or repair before resale. Whatever parts cannot be reused or refurbished will be broken down securely and recycled responsibly, through Dell, so that their valuable materials can be reprocessed to make new products.

To date, the Dell Reconnect program has diverted more than 427 million pounds of used electronics from landfills, where they pose an environmental hazard. In addition, these collections help support Dell’s goal of recovering 2 billion pounds of used electronics by 2020.

“Toxic and complex minerals are in electronics and IT equipment,” said Sarah Gilliam, senior program manager for Global Takeback marketing at Dell. “When absorbed into the soil or water, it can hurt wildlife and people’s health in the environment.”

For example, a single printer cartridge may take up to 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill.

“That’s just one cartridge,” Gilliam said. “Think about the far larger and far more complicated electronics that wind up in landfills every day.”

E-waste on the rise

The total amount of e-waste generated in 2014 worldwide was 41.8 million metric tons, according to the Global E-waste Monitor report by the United Nations University. This amount is forecasted to increase to 50 million metric tons by 2018. And e-waste is the fastest-growing source of municipal waste in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Dell’s e-recycling option provides more than just diverted waste for consumers. It also offers material reuse for the company.

Dell has created a “closed-loop” system by using plastics collected through programs like Dell Reconnect to be reused to make parts in new computers and monitors. After Goodwill organizations separate out the plastic materials in donated electronics, Dell’s environmental partners process those plastics and deliver them to manufacturing plants where they are mixed with virgin plastics materials and then used in the production of new Dell products.

Recycling results in job creation

The benefits of Dell Reconnect are not limited to just the environment. Dell’s partnership with Goodwill funds the nonprofit’s work in job creation and skills training for people facing challenges to finding employment. Every donation to Dell Reconnect accounts for 6.8 hours of job training. In addition, these donations provide families with the ability to buy great computer products at an affordable price.

What started in 2004 as a partnership with Goodwill Industries of Central Texas (Austin) has expanded to more than approximately 100 Goodwill community-based, autonomous Goodwill organizations with more than 2,000 participating drop-off locations across the country.

So next time you find a dusty desktop or box of cords buried in the attic, think twice before throwing it in the trash.

Find a Dell Reconnect participating Goodwill location in your area here.

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