October 30, 2014
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Big Brothers goes green to raise green

"The buzz word is green,” said Steve Kass, executive director of Big Brothers of Rhode Island. “And we’re as green as it gets.”

A new partnership between Big Brothers and CRT Recycling, a Brockton-based e-waste collection and recycling company, will help Rhode Islanders safely dispose of their electronics while raising funds for the 60-year-old non-profit.

Rhode Island state law mandates that electronics manufacturers ensure their products, like computers and televisions, are recycled. Cathode ray tubes, or CRTs, are banned from Rhode Island landfills, and city sanitation workers are told to leave such products on the curb. Cathode ray tubes are found in products like televisions and computer monitors. The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) manages the state-run portion of this program, but manufacturers can also choose to use outside services. Now, Big Brothers has jumped on the e-waste bandwagon; they kicked off their new e-waste collection program with a special, one-day recycling event in September.

Kass said CRT Recycling reached out to Big Brothers to form a partnership – they were looking to move into Rhode Island, and Kass was looking to raise revenue for his non-profit.

CRT Recycling is now offering door-to-door pickup of old electronic devices, anything from computers to microwaves that people would like to discard. The electronics will be safely ground into smaller parts and re-used, or sold for scrap material.

Peter Kopcych, general manager for CRT Recycling, said his 70 employees collect and recycle roughly 200,000 tons of e-waste a year. The products’ manufacturers pay his company 15 cents per pound to recycle their old televisions and computers. Of those 15 cents, Kopcych said CRT pays 6 cents per pound to Big Brothers. From now until Jan. 1, Kopcych said he will recycle about 200,000 pounds of manufacturer-funded e-waste.

At a time when donations are down, said Kass, the additional revenue is key. It’s also helpful to the environment, said Kass, ensuring that these things don’t end up dumped elsewhere and instead are re-used.

Sarah Kite, spokeswoman for RIRRC, said they welcome Big Brothers’ new program.

“Anytime recycling is made more convenient, it's a good thing,” said Kite in an email.

RIRRC doesn’t make a profit off of their e-waste programs, since manufacturers pay for the recycling of their laptops, hard drives, televisions and monitors and RIRRC pays for the electronics not covered by law.

Kite said most municipalities offer e-waste recycling programs, so people no longer have to wait for special events to dispose of their electronics. But the statewide program only covers televisions, computers and computer accessories, like mice and keyboards.

In addition to recycling and disposal, CRT has a special permit from the EPA to turn non-leaded glass from cathode ray tubes into concrete barriers. CRT’s workers must separate the leaded glass from the non-leaded glass by hand. Leaded glass is shipped elsewhere.

In addition to the money generated from recycling, Kass will also start a program to rebuild reusable computers and sell them at a low cost to inner city children. Participants in the Big Brothers program will work with local technical school students to re-construct salvageable computers. According to Kopcych, a special permit from Microsoft will allow Big Brothers to license the computers and sell them for roughly $20 to children who cannot otherwise afford the technology.

The partnership between CRT and Big Brothers is just getting off the ground, and Kass said they had a surge of calls earlier this month. He’s not sure yet how much Big Brothers will earn off of their first groundswell of collections.

In the future, Kopcych thinks that those at Big Brothers will have a more autonomous collection program, where they will collect the products they can re-use, and let CRT deal with things that must be recycled.

Kopcych said the initiative to keep cathode ray tubes out of landfills started in the late 1990s; to date, not all states have laws prohibiting such material from their landfills.

Today, many electronics no longer use cathode ray tubes, and Kopcych said it’s important to stay one step ahead of the technology, and subsequent recycling, curve.

For now, Kopcych said CRT Recycling will take just about anything except car batteries, wood products and propone tanks.

He hopes it will be especially helpful to those who cannot dispose of these things themselves.

“There are definitely people who can't bring their TVs to a drop-off,” echoed RIRRC’s Kite. “So I can see where this would be helpful, especially for seniors.”

Kopcych is also excited to be working with Kass and Big Brothers, and hopes it can help the organization.

“It’s kind of a win-win for everybody,” he said.

Kass is hopeful it will be another way to increase revenue for the organization, but also draw attention to the core mission of Big Brothers: To help young men without an adult male figure in their lives.

Kass said there is a huge waiting list of Little Brothers, all desperately in need of a Big Brother to be matched with.

To find out more about Big Brothers, or to participate, call 432-9955 or visit www.bigbrothersri.org. To schedule an e-waste pickup, call 421-5061.


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