Partnering in electronic recycling to create employment for workers with special needs

2013-11-24T07:00:00Z Partnering in electronic recycling to create employment for workers with special needsLu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
November 24, 2013 7:00 am  • 

MUNSTER – Properly recycling computers takes expertise to comply with state and federal laws and to be eco-friendly.

TradeWinds Services’ year-old program in Secure Computer Destruction & Recycling is registered with the State of Indiana as a collector with the Indiana Electronic Waste Program. The TradeWinds program provides a free recycling service for businesses, schools and households while also creating employment opportunities for workers with special needs.

Those two components came together recently when The Times Media Co. donated 154 computers as well as numerous computer-related parts such as cords and printers to the TradeWinds recycling program.

It all started with a conversation between Gina Henson of Highland, a Times IT department employee, and a staff member at the TradeWinds group home where Henson's brother lives.

“I asked about a workshop on computer recycling because I’m in IT. The head nurse told me about TradeWinds computer recycling program, and I brought the idea to Joshua (Kaiser of The Times IT department),” said Henson.

The Times has recycled computers previously, Kaiser said. About a year ago, The Times IT department recycled a truckload of computers through a company and received a check for about $150.

“It’s better to keep this recycling in the community and help give people employment,” he said.

Joe Macklin, a TradeWinds staff member, picked up the six pallets of computers and computer parts from The Times loading dock with helpers Leroy Walker and Darnell Johnson.

“I’m so happy this got off the ground,” said Henson as she watched the pallets being loaded on the TradeWinds truck by Times warehouse employees Rose Romero of East Chicago and Russell Smedley of Hammond.

Back at the TradeWinds Services Inc. facility in Gary, The Times’ computer donation was scanned and a certificate of secure destruction prepared, said Helen S. Rutkowski, TradeWinds Services Industries Director. The certificate will be issued to The Times when the donated computers are properly recycled.

Eight individuals employed in TradeWinds’ programs are trained to dismantle computers, destroy the hard-drives and recycle all computer components in compliance with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Rutkowski said.

One worker drills holes into the hard drives to prevent any personal or secure information from being extracted and put into secure recycling bins, Rutkowski explained. Others take apart the computer components, leaving just an empty shell.

“We partner with Technology Recyclers. They take the parts and the drilled hard drives in the recycling bins and shred the hard drives into metal bits,” she said. “That way everything can be recycled properly.”

TradeWinds’ pilot program that will celebrate its one-year anniversary this month was launched because of an increased need to properly recycle computers after the State of Indiana mandated on Jan. 1, 2011 that computers, computer monitors, accessories and peripherals couldn’t be discarded, Rutkowski said.

“We received a grant from Legacy Foundation to help market this program and educate people (about proper computer recycling),” she said. “We now have a brochure so that everyone in our communities knows about this free service.”

More donations of computers are needed to keep the TradeWinds workers employed, Rutkowski said. Pickup is available for larger donations. There are also drop off sites. Information on the sites is available by calling (219) 949-4000, ext. 226 or by logging on to tradewindsnwi.org.

While the program helps businesses, school and households to properly recycle computers, Rutkowksi said, the real benefit “is the pride each of the employees has in doing the job, the pride and satisfaction of earning a living.”

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