‘Tis the season for the latest electronics. But before you toss out your old tech, think about the impact on the environment and consider how you might give your gadgets a new life.
“E-waste contains toxic materials, such as lead, cadmium and beryllium, which can be released into the atmosphere, infiltrate the soil and flow into the water bodies nearby, affecting public health,” said Emily Nederveld, director of impact funding at Comprenew. “We try to help businesses reuse, repurpose, repair and dispose of unwanted IT equipment. Computers, printers, copiers – you can’t just throw those in the dumpster. You have to find a way to recycle them. Sometimes if they’re working, we try to reuse or help businesses reuse their equipment before recycling it, because if (they) can, if somebody can use it, we like to try to get that use out of it.”
One of the nonprofit’s goals is to give computers to those who might not otherwise have access to them.
“One of the programs we have is called CAMP, and that stands for Connect All Michigan Program,” Nederveld said. “That is a digital equity program to help close the digital divide. We have donated over 450 computers so far since 2020, and we work with nonprofit organizations in West Michigan to identify people who are in need of computers. We’re not going to reject anybody as long as they show they’re in need of a computer. We will actually deliver it right to their door and we warrant the computer as if they purchased it.”
Comprenew also makes a point to employ folks who might have difficulty finding work, a passion project of Nederveld’s.
“We’re more than just a computer recycler; we have so much more impact on the community, and people don’t know that,” she said. “We started this team, it’s called the AWARE Team, which stands for Adults With Autism Recycling Electronics. We are looking to employ people who are on the spectrum to work at Comprenew for many reasons – one reason is that a lot of times they may have a harder time finding employment, but they’re also model employees. It’s meaningful for me to know that I am helping to support people that otherwise might have a hard time finding a job.”