Monitoring e-waste for good
Michael Hodge ’00 cringes when he sees a trash container filled with used electronic equipment. Not only does he consider the consequences to the environment, but also how a used computer, microwave, or lamp could help a needy family.
Hodge is the executive director for the Peoria-based company Recycling for Illinois, a nonprofit organization that recycles and donates electronic equipment. Its recycling division accepts “basically anything that runs on batteries or electricity,” said Hodge, listing computers, stereos, TVs, VCRs, microwaves, and more. “We then go through a sorting process to determine what’s going to be recycled and reused. The items deemed obsolete or beyond useful life are de-manufactured and recycled. The items that are good and still useful are turned over to our other division, Retro-Tech Electronics, where they are distributed throughout the community through placement programs that help low-income families, individuals with disabilities, and students of all ages. We also have a traditional showroom where the general public can purchase items at a greatly reduced cost.”
Through his public speaking engagements, Hodge tries to find individuals who couldn’t otherwise afford items like computers. He works with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, and if a family loses everything to fire or natural disaster, his company replaces all electrical items at no charge. The company placed more than 2,400 computers in homes last year. “We want to put technology in the hands of people who can use it, but may not be able to afford it otherwise,” Hodge said. “We get a lot of computers that are still very functional, very usable, and there’s very little, if anything, wrong with them.”
To assist the University, Hodge donates older computer systems to Bradley’s Computers and Society course, giving students the opportunity to disassemble computers to see what’s inside. He also recycles all of the University’s used electronic equipment.
Hodge notes the electronic recycling industry is growing rapidly. His business may boom more rapidly if an Illinois law in the House is passed, prohibiting any electronic waste from being dumped in landfills. “When VCRs were introduced 20 to 30 years ago, you wouldn’t think of throwing them away because they were large and expensive, and they were much easier to repair.” said Hodge. “Nowadays, a VCR or DVD player costs $25 to $30, and if it no longer runs, you toss it and buy another one. And how many cell phones do you go through on an ongoing basis? And computers? It’s not entirely new, but within the last five to 10 years, it’s really started to become a bigger and bigger issue.”
Visit retro-tech.org for more information. Go>
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