LifeCYCLE Project – Changing Lives and Improving the Environment

By Greg Gates,  The Arc of Lee County / Kreider Services

From the outside, 629 Palmyra Road Dixon Illinois looks like a facility that would be home to a manufacturing operation. Walking inside the front door reveals an environment that is changing lives.

The greater vision for this recycling site, as explained by Jeff Stauter, our president and chief executive officer of Kreider Services, is to cultivate an economic development incubator and to offer people with disabilities the chance of being employed by the business and perhaps serving as owners of their own businesses.

“Think of it……why place limits on what people with disabilities are able to do,” asks Stauter. “Unfortunately they’ve already had enough barriers placed around them. We know that we have persons who are quite capable of doing some great things if they are given the opportunities to do so.  This new operation will recycle electronics, cardboard, plastic, food scraps, polystyrene and office paper,  and my hope it will serve as a model for others to pattern their operation after,” adds Stauter.

Current national figures show that 80 percent of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not  employed.  The “LifeCycle Project” as it has been named by Secure Recycling Services will create 20 jobs initially  for persons with disabilities. The persons hired for these jobs will be trained by project staff on collecting, dismantling, sorting, and inventorying electronic waste.  For instance, they are learning how to take apart a CPU, power supply, keyboards, or computer mice.    And others will be dismantling power cords for the copper wiring inside.

At Kreider Services, we understand the concern for the individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability who aren’t receiving funding assistance from the state anymore. They’ve fallen through the cracks……at the same time, they haven’t yet been developing the skills that will help them find the sustainable jobs they need.

As the electronic recycling efforts are expanding at our Palmyra Road location, the lives of people with disabilities are being changed indeed.  In the transition from working in a sheltered workshop environment to taking on jobs at the recycling site, at the start of the new year, five people with intellectual and developmental disabilities will be working alongside “regular” employees at the SRS division.   After talking with Andy, one of the new workers, an incredible statement was made.  “My family is so excited for me to get this job…….. I’m no longer a ‘client’,”  he voiced with the most joyful pride. To hear his enthusiasm and to realize the deeper meaning of that simple statement is truly monumental, don’t you think.

Thanks to a project of The Arc and the Walmart Foundation, the eXplore eRecycling Initiative has provided funding to ten grant recipients across the nation of which Kreider Services/The Arc of Lee County was one. The local project has allowed for the expansion of Kreider Services’ existing electronics recycling operation and has provided paid employment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities like Andy.

President of our local Arc chapter, Lee County Illinois, Jill Polivka had commented, “This is a great opportunity for individuals with disabilities in our community.”   Our partnership with The Arc will help make our recycling efforts even stronger.   The recycling industry is an open market of opportunity; it’s the perfect avenue to find the much needed employment potential for not only people with disabilities …but for our community in general.

Beyond the electronics recycling, the LifeCycle Project will help educate school children and the general public about the proper disposal of their computer, television or similar equipment.  Recycling Coloring and Activity books will be distributed to local grade schools. We will also be hosting a gallery opening at The Next Picture Show art gallery of original artwork created from recycled electronic material. Plans also call for working directly with local Walmart stores on educating their patrons on how to recycle their used electronics by having a number of individuals demonstrating the “de-manufacturing” of the outdated electronic equipment.

Need has always been considered the mother of invention… in this trying economic climate… what an exciting potential it may reveal. We shall live and learn as we move forward. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

For additional information, please visit the project’s website here.