Goodwill computer refurbishment has multiple rewards
More electronic equipment, particularly computers and
accessories, could be refurbished and upgraded for the
secondary market in the United States, says Christine
Nyirjesy Bragale, director, media relations and spokesperson
for Goodwill Industries International (GII).
Goodwill’s 168 local agencies across the country (excluding
Alaska and Utah) operate stores in which various products
are sold for reuse, with the revenues generated to fund
job training and other related programs.
In 2005, GII received 27 million pounds of electronics,
the equivalent of 963,000 computers, via donations. In
2004, local Goodwills received 23 million pounds, equivalent
to 821,000 computers.
“The numbers vary from place-to-place, but nearly 30
percent of the electronics we receive are unusable,”
says Bragale. “We receive a wide range of computers.
Some can be resold as is, some need repairs and we try
to do whatever possible to refurbish and resell the equipment.
There are instances where it needs to be demanufactured
and the parts recycled. A number of Goodwills have Computer
Work stores where they will sell different computer parts
In addition to promoting the recycling of computer equipment,
the demanufacturing and refurbishment facilities provide
a work component to Goodwill in terms of jobs and job
training for computer repair and refurbishment in the
“They create jobs and we train people how to fix computers,”
says Bragale. “We love those great working computers
because there are a number of Goodwill locations where
they give computers to their program participants and
provide them with on-line career training.”
But taking in tremendous amounts of computer equipment
also creates problems, particularly the cost of disposal
in an environmentally responsible way.
“It is very costly,” says Bragale. “For every dollar
that we spend disposing of something that we cannot sell
and use, that is $1 we don’t have to spend on job training
Because disposal costs bite into revenues, the national
leadership is calling upon Congress to enact legislation
that would provide a solution to help with the development
of sustainable national recycling and reuse infrastructure
for unwanted electronic products.
“Product design changes could facilitate the re-use,
disassembly and recycling of products,” says Gerardo
Castro, director of contracts and environmental services
at Goodwill Industries of Southern California, in recent
testimony before the House Committee on Science and Technology.
“Standardized chargers for cell phones are an example
of design changes that would add minimal costs to the
product while achieving substantial impact in the reuse
Bragale says there should be federal tax credits for
manufacturers who partner with social agencies, as well
as grants and other kinds of initiatives that “are going
to spur good solutions and help people and organizations
that can handle that problem. Goodwill is a natural stop
in the lifecycle of computers and pretty much anything
in your house that you don’t want anymore. We are looking
for support because charities cannot bear the cost of
disposing of these items. The ultimate goal is an environmentally
sound recycling system, whatever the nuts and bolts are.
The whole point is to keep the material out of the landfill.”
Goodwill is seeking federal legislative help to assist
in the development of a sustainable infrastructure, support
incentives to manufacturers for product design changes
and to offer recycling grants and other initiatives to
help stakeholders handle this problem.
Due to the quantity of computer equipment that Goodwill
receives, most of its organizations do not have advertising
campaigns to secure computer-related items.
“In San Francisco, the Goodwill there has a campaign
of ‘Goodwill, not landfill’ and that is for all items,”
says Bragale. “There are 25 Goodwill organizations that
work with Dell under the Dell Reconnect Program. We have
been working with Dell since 2004 and the program is
growing. Together, we have collected 32 million pounds
Goodwill recently launched Dell partnerships in the greater
Rochester (July 3) and Buffalo (June 16) areas in New
Goodwill allows local associations to develop programs
and relationships with city and state governments to
meet local needs. Goodwill does not have national guidelines
on what type of computer equipment to accept, with some
local organizations taking anything, some taking equipment
that is a few years old and others not accepting any
Goodwill has approximately 40 computer recycling facilities
nationwide, including Austin, Texas; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
and Sacramento and Santa Anna, California.
Taking a computer apart does not require sophisticated
tools, but having tech-savvy employees is essential as
they can quickly determine which parts require replacement
and which parts, such as video cards, can be sold as
Barbara Kyle, the National Coordinator for the San Francisco-based
Electronics TakeBack Coalition (ETBC), says reuse is
where there are more options.
“Sadly, most of the big computer makers don’t make their
equipment to be fully upgradeable,” she says. “You can
upgrade the memory and other things, but they are not
made to keep up with processors.”