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Getting ProActive in e-recycling

ProAct consumer Cody Banitt disassembles computers, stereos and other electronics at ProAct eRecycling Services in Red Wing. (Photos courtesy of ProAct)1 / 3
ProAct participant Frank Foley disassembles electronic into components and sorts them for recycling in Red Wing.2 / 3
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ProAct eRecycling Services has a double purpose — providing a solution for economical disposing of electronics waste and employing people with disabilities.

The company is a new service unit of ProAct Inc. The basic concept is the collection of a vast array of electronic and electrical items, then items are disassembled and materials are sold for reuse through CyclePoint from SourceAmerica.

Local collection began during the first week of June, with items being collected at ProAct’s Red Wing facility at 204 Mississippi Ave.

Drop off hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to noon Fridays.

“We will take almost anything with a cord,” said project leader Tim Hovey. Computers, televisions, monitors, vacuum cleaners, DVD players, CD players, electronic games and even toasters are collected — many with no disposal fee.

“Right now nationally each family typically generates 16 pounds of electronic waste every year,” Hovey said.“Of that number, only 25 percent is being recycled — so 75 percent is ending up in a ditch, landfill or someone’s garage.”

Reducing waste

It’s that exact reason why the service has teamed up with and receives e-recyclables from the city’s solid waste campus — to keep electronics out of the ditch and out of landfills.

“The catch is, people just don’t know that there are becoming good options to recycle,” he said.

Hovey went on to say that many of these recyclable items end up in the trash and go through the whole garbage cycle and have to be sorted back out.

“A lot of that is stuff they could have dropped off here for free and wouldn’t have to go through that process,” he said.

The only things the e-recycling service is not taking now are large appliances with refrigerants including air conditioners, refrigerators or freezers.

“We are not equipped or certified to deal with refrigerant at this point,” Hovey said.

Items that are collected for a fee include microwaves and CRT televisions or computer screens — ranging from $10 to $30 depending on size.

“One of the things that’s been troublesome in the past for people is there have been large recycling fees attached to everything,” Hovey said. “We are trying to make as many things as possible free and easy for them.”

Taking it all apart

The electronics dissembling work is performed locally by people with disabilities and also a standard work force in an environmentally responsible manner as verified by third parties. As a member of CyclePoint from SourceAmerica, ProAct eRecycling Services joins a national network of electronics recycling providers that employ people with disabilities.

The overall focus is on green jobs for people with and without disabilities and environmental responsibility, said Jim Bohmbach, ProAct manager of production.

“We’ve had a phenomenal response with both clients and our integrated workforce,” Hovey said. “The level of excitement from the people that are back there is just huge.”

Businesses are encouraged to contact ProAct to make arrangements for larger collections. Bohmbach said one of their main goals is to connect with all the businesses.

The company is also a registered recycler with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and an affiliate of the Keep America Beautiful organization.

ProAct is working to achieve stringent R2/RIOS certification by early 2016. R2/RIOS offers the highest standards for environmental protection, worker health and safety, data privacy and facility security, which were developed by a broad base of people from industry, state governments and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Data security is an integral part of the new e-recycling operation. Standards assure that computer hard drives are under lock and key until they’re destroyed with a portable shredding machine, said Chris Hartley, who trains ProAct workers. Written proof of destruction is offered, and employees undergo background checks as an added precaution.

“A lot of people are very concerned about that,” Hovey said. “We secure the data from the time we get it in our hands to the time it goes into the data pressing machine.”

Leaders of the new operation say there’s an enthusiasm among ProAct’s participants and a rising level of professionalism that has resulted.

ProAct is a “Tier 2” provider, which means it collects and disassembles electronics. These are then shipped to Tier 3 companies, which do the final prep before recovered materials are sold on commodity markets.

For questions about ProAct eRecycling Services, call 888-388-7108 or visit www.proactinc.org.

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

(651) 301-7880
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