Helping Dreams Come True While Helping the Environment

eRecycling at The Arc of Clarion and Venango Counties Inc.By Caleb Wilson, Vocational Director, The Arc of Clarion and Venango Counties Inc.

A valuable lesson we have learned through our efforts of connecting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to community-based employment opportunities is that the idea of creating a business around someone’s interests and abilities is not commonplace. Some individuals have always dreamed of being their own boss and owning their own business.  Keeping that in mind, The Arc of Clarion and Venango Counties started assisting individuals in creating their “Dream Job” of owning their own business.

The Arc and Walmart Foundation’s eXplore eRecycling Initiative has made it possible for us to assist a small group of individuals experiencing disabilities with starting a business that helps residents and community businesses/organizations recycle their old electronics in an environmentally sound way. From the development of the business plan and policies, The Arc eRecycling of Clarion and Venango Counties has truly been an effort led by these employees.

To comply with Pennsylvania’s Covered Device Act, we have held two free e-waste drop off days in both Clarion and Venango Counties.  These events brought in over 4,000 pounds of old electronics that do not work or that people simply do not wish to own anymore.   Additionally, several local city offices have started referring their residents to The Arc eRecycling for their needs and this has given us the opportunity to recycle hundreds of computer monitors and televisions.  With a motto of “We take anything with a plug” each day customers have the ability to drop off any electronic.  In order to meet the interests of some employees, The Arc eRecycling of Clarion and Venango Counties started creating catalogs to resell old electronics that are still in working condition.  This not only allows the business to help the environment but to help individuals find reasonable priced electronics.

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.

The Arc of Madison County eRecycling Program

By Joyce Rinaldi, The Arc of Madison County

While The Arc of Madison County has worked hard to help individuals obtain employment in businesses throughout our community, we have also developed businesses to create new work opportunities. Our most significant success has been with our recycle and an on-site paper shredding businesses. With these programs, we have employed over 100 individuals with disabilities as sorters, material handlers, and on-site shredding personnel.

With our newest endeavor, we are excited to partner with The Arc’s eXplore eRecycling Initiative, funded by the Walmart Foundation, to place more individuals with disabilities to work! With this grant, we will be recycling and shredding metal products, circuit boards, cell phones and computer hard drives. By working with community stakeholders (individuals, local businesses, etc.) to recycle electronic equipment, it allows us to empower the individuals we serve and conserve natural resources, protect public health and the environment.

Our e-recycling employees work extensively in the community, engaging one-on-one with our customers. This structure has provided a maximum benefit to both employees and customers. We have received only the most enthusiastic feedback from our customers to this end and have enjoyed seeing the relationships they have been able to establish. It is also important to note that all employees associated with this particular initiative earn at least minimum wage, which further facilitates independence.

While taking a community leader on a tour of our facility last week, I noticed excitement was in the air. As we came upon several recycle workers, they could not contain themselves. They just had to show this person the new additions to our recycling program, our truck and new hard drive destruction equipment.  They explained how we received a grant from The Arc of the United States; how we would be recycling (and destroying) new items like hard drives and cell phones; and how other people “like me” will get to work. I did not have to say anything as the workers sold the program. It is exciting to see the “ownership” in the program. It also reminded me that their commitment is what has made our recycle and shredding services successful. Commitment to their job and to our community, in the services we provide.

Helping a Community Go Green!

By Kerry Mahoney, The Arc of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport

Cut the Cord: The Newburyport eRecycling Project

The Arc of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport has partnered with The City of Newburyport to implement The Newburyport eRecycle Project. In addition to job training and employment for adults with I/DD we are busy at work educating area residents on the impact e-waste has on the environment and City.

We have developed a multimedia approach to educate the residents in the goals of the project:

  • To demonstrate the abilities of people with I/DD
  • The impact and benefit eRecycling has on the environment
  • The benefit to the City of Newburyport.

In addition to press in the local papers we have reached out to the local cable station and radio station to raise awareness. A student with disabilities from Newburyport High School is assisting us in producing a film about the project through the local media station. This film will be on the websites of The Arc of GHN, City of Newburyport and their contractor-Electronic Recyclers International’s website. This student along with his sister (a graphic design major at UMASS/Amherst) also created a logo for the project. (Attached) A message is listed on the local cable news announcing the project along with a trivia game with prizes about eRecycling to capture viewer’s interest. The local radio station had us as special guests with an interview on air.

The staff attends social events arranged by The Chamber of Commerce to network with other businesses. To meet the needs of the business community we have established a separate date during the week for them to drop off their electronics. The Chamber member newsletter distributes announcements about the project to over 800 members via email.

On Saturday our eRecycle employees will be at the local grocery store displaying a table full of electronic waste and distributing information on ewaste as well as the opening celebration at the Newburyport Recycling Center on October 6th. The eRecycle employees are also busy at work constructing a scarecrow complete with electronic cords to be placed on a lamppost in downtown Newburyport during the Harvest Festival.

The Arc of Nassau County New York Develops eWorks

By Karleen Haines, The Arc of Nassau County New York

Workers at

Workers at The Arc of Nassau County New York’s eWorks program recycle parts of a personal computer.

The Arc of Nassau County New York (AHRC Nassau) over the last two years has developed a small business providing e-waste recycling to local organizations, titled AHRC eWorks. eWorks hires adults with intellectual disabilities as dismantlers to inventory, sort, clean work areas, dismantle electronic items, and label pallets. Though this position requires specific skill sets and flexibility based upon the types of electronics to be dismantled, several individuals have achieved great success.

Thanks to The Arc’s eXplore eRecycling program funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation, eWorks was recently able to offer another employee – James – this work opportunity. James is an older gentleman who recently came to AHRC Nassau and immediately showed great ability within eWorks. As a result of attaining this position, James is hopeful and excited about the possibility of setting aside money to find a modest apartment where he can live more independently.

Also, it appears that this opportunity for advancement has also encouraged James to “come out of his shell”. Now while at work, James has become more sociable with his fellow employees. We here at AHRC Nassau are hopeful that James and other current and future employees will all be able to share in similar positive experiences.

Explore Genesee ARC and Its Growing Trash and Recycling Business

A worker with Genesee ARC’s Trash and Recycling Center helps recycle e-waste.

Submitted by Shelley Falitico, Genesee ARC

Here at Genesee ARC, we have been in the trash and recycling business for nearly 30 years. In fact, we have been the exclusive provider of this service to residents of the city of Batavia since 1983. Batavia is our county seat and has a population over about 16,000 people.

Over the years, Genesee ARC has continually employed as many as 20 people with disabilities through this successful work program, and quality satisfaction surveys conducted over the last quarter century have consistently rated our service exceptional!

This has been a very busy and exciting time for the Genesee ARC Trash and Recycling Center as we have recently moved to a larger, more modern facility. The move coincides with increased marketing efforts to expand the amount of recyclables we collect, and the wonderful news that we are one of ten agencies in the nation to receive an eXplore eRecycling Grant from The Walmart Foundation and The Arc.

We began picking up and recycling e-waste since last year in order to prepare for an impending New York State law requiring e-recycling in our communities. Since the first of this year, we have collected several tons from City of Batavia residents. That’s a lot of televisions, scanners, monitors and keyboards that have NOT ended up in a landfill!

The eXplore eRecycling Grant will allow us to expand on this success and plans include offering an e-recycling drop off service to residents in each of our County’s thirteen towns and six villages. We are currently in the process of developing the E-Waste Apprentice position. In the weeks to come, we will be designing a marketing plan to help guide our eXplore eRecycling initiatives.

The Arc Launches eXplore eRecycling Sustainability Efforts

Washington, DC – The Arc of the United States is launching its “eXplore eRecycling” initiative, funded by a $465,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation. Through the initiative, 10 chapters of The Arc will be awarded funds to help develop or enhance electronic waste management programs that offer community-based employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“The eXplore eRecycling initiative is a wonderful chance to show how individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can excel in cutting edge jobs while earning competitive salaries.  By bringing together the disability and the e-recycling communities, we hope to create more employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Each sub-grantee will be awarded a grant to start or expand their electronic waste recycling program.  Throughout the program, sub-grantees will engage in peer learning and network with one another.  The peer learning aspect of this grant will allow sub-grantees to share expertise and knowledge regarding topics pertinent to e-recycling and employment with each other. They will also have the unique opportunity to interact with members of an Expert Advisory Committee made up of leaders from the e-recycling, environmental, disability, and business fields. These experts will provide their knowledge and perspectives to identify practice and policy recommendations that further electronic waste conservation efforts and competitive employment outcomes for people with I/DD.

Members of the Expert Advisory Committee work for a variety of organizations including: National Youth Leadership Network, University of Maine’s Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies, Disability Rights New Jersey, University of Vermont-Center on Disability and Community Inclusion, Basel Action Network, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc., Good360, Arc Thrift Stores, National Center for Electronics Recycling, Northeast Recycling Center, Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities, and NISH.

The sub-grantees are listed below in alphabetical order:

  • AHRC Nassau – Long Island, NY
  • Genesee ARC – Batavia, NY
  • Kreider Services  - Dixon, IL
  • Seneca Cayuga ARC – Waterloo, NY
  • SouthStar Services – Chicago Heights, IL
  • The Arc of Clarion and Venango Counties – Clarion, PA
  • The Arc of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport – Haverhill, MA
  • The Arc of Hamilton County – Chattanooga, TN
  • The Arc of Madison County – Huntsville, AL
  • The Arc of the Virginia Peninsula, Inc. – Hampton, VA