In a major shift for one of the region’s biggest nonprofits — which makes its living off others’ castoffs — Southern Oregon Goodwill is no longer accepting e-waste.
Goodwill officials blame a shifting global recycling market, saying fewer places to recycle unwanted electronics is driving up costs.
“Our business model relies on the generosity of the community,” says Marketing Director Julie Fletcher. “We are a social enterprise that sells donated items for resale value. We use our revenues to provide job connections and build relationships with employers, and it’s important to keep our overhead very, very low.
“It’s important for us with donations to only accept items that we can sell. The value of stuff is only as much as people will pay for it.”
Since Sept. 1, donors have had to find alternate places to dispose of the 1.5 million pounds of e-waste — older televisions, computers, printers and other electronics — that were dropped off at Goodwill locations annually in a four-county region.
In 2017, Goodwill recycled more than 8 million pounds of materials, nearly 12 percent of which were electronic items that were resold, upcycled or disassembled for sellable parts.
With some 30,000 annual donation drop-offs, Fletcher says, electronic waste requires a lot of manpower and disposal costs. Global recycling changes and reduced avenues for disposal were compounded by an increasingly “disposable” society, Fletcher says.
“Technology keeps changing, and so there is more and more material going to the landfill,” she says. “We are definitely not in the same environment that we were in, in terms of having options for keeping materials out of the landfills, but we are hopeful that things will get back to what they used to be.
“We would obviously prefer to be able to recycle the way we used to — for our own purposes and for the planet. We are just in a position now that anything we have to spend money on disposing of is counter to our mission.”
The local Goodwill is one of 162 in the U.S. and Canada that help people with financial, mental and physical challenges overcome barriers to employment. Some regions, she says, have electronic stores and more capacity for disposing of e-waste.
One exception to the new e-waste policy for local stores: flat-screen televisions in good condition still will be accepted.
“We are grateful for, and we count on, donations from the public,” Fletcher says. “We always hate to turn people away, but we’re trying to educate and let people know what happens with certain items when they come through our donation process.
“Our ultimate goal is always for a donation to turn into a job.”
For a list of area organizations which will recycle e-waste, see www.sogoodwill.org/recycle-e-waste
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.