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Published: Thursday, 2/21/2008

Plan helps computers go green; donated models will be recycled

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Collois Coachman prepares computers and printers in the Goodwill Industries warehouse for shipment to be recycled. Collois Coachman prepares computers and printers in the Goodwill Industries warehouse for shipment to be recycled.
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Now there's a place to take that old computer that's been gathering dust in the basement since being replaced by a newer, faster model.

Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio, in a partnership with Dell, announced yesterday it will collect unwanted computers at 15 donation centers areawide.

"We're helping our customers get rid of something that's very difficult to get rid of - [electronic] waste," said Bob Huber, Goodwill's president and chief executive office. "You can't put them in the landfill. We have to go green."

Through the program, called Reconnect, people can bring computers and their components, such as monitors, keyboards, and printers, to Goodwill stores and donation centers.

They'll be sorted at Goodwill's hub downtown where the Dell-authorized recycler, Re-Source Partners of the Detroit area, will collect them and either refurbish them and put them back in the marketplace or recycle their parts.

All money generated through Reconnect will go back to Goodwill for its job training and employment programs.

Three people have been hired to work with Reconnect, and more jobs could be created as the program grows, Mr. Huber said.

The goal is to collect more than 1 million pounds of used computer equipment.

Goodwill stopped accepting computers about seven years ago because people weren't buying the older models, and it couldn't do anything with the unwanted machines, Mr. Huber said.

Those stockpiled computers are among the first being put through the Reconnect program.

There are some "environmentally sensitive" materials in computers that are important to be kept out of landfills. Programs like Reconnect with trained people to handle them are important, said Mike Watson, Dell's senior manager for global recovery services.

Other Goodwill-Dell Reconnect programs are statewide in Michigan and New Jersey, and in parts of California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The northwest Ohio program is a pilot for what is hoped will be expanded across the state, Mr. Watson said.

"This program is a great opportunity to take advantage of how quickly we replace those things that we are so technologically tied to these days," Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said during the announcement of Reconnect.

Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the Lucas County commissioners, and state Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills) also spoke in support of the program.

Before the Reconnect program, the way computers could be recycled locally was through the Lucas County Solid Waste Management District's specialty waste program. A person made an appointment and paid a fee that covered the cost of processing through RET3 in Cleveland.

Juliana Sample, executive director of Keep Toledo/Lucas County Beautiful, said the Reconnect program will be a convenient way for people to recycle computer parts. "It's a wonderful way, just by the sheer availability of the Goodwill drop-off sites," she said. "The goal, of course, is to reach more people, and this will open the doors for a lot of people."

The need is there, she said. In June, the county collected 228 tons of electronics during a free recycling event, but that included other electronics, such as microwaves, Ms. Sample said.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at: mgilbert@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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