People with disabilities reap rewards from e-recycling

Wesley E-Recycling partnering with businesses to reduce carbon footprints and offer disabled workers a new professional calling

One of NSW's largest charities, Wesley Mission, is providing employment and training opportunities for people with a disability by engaging them in its E-Recycling initiative.

The Wesley Business Services E-Recycling program specialises in end-of-life IT asset management, computer refurbishment, IT equipment recycling and hard drive/data cleansing and destruction.

Businesses and organizations can become a partner to the program, with recycling costs negotiated on the quantity and types of equipment for decommissioning or disposal.

Larger quantities can be collected free of charge by Wesley, and higher end equipment can be recycled for free as it can be refurbished and reused by the program.

Wesley's E-Recycling service offers asset reports so companies can keep track of their social responsibility and environmental sustainability initiatives.

Addressing the growing e-waste problem, providing sustainable employment and training opportunities for people with disabilities, and bridging the digital divide by refurbishing computers for those who otherwise wouldn't have access to technology were the driving factors behind the program, a Wesley spokesperson told Computerworld.

"The challenge of finding suitable employment opportunities for people with disabilities is great. The program provides people with a disability the opportunity to be actively involved with technology and the community," the spokesperson said.

An October 2006 report by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, found that engaging people with disabilities in computer recycling was commercially viable and provided meaningful work opportunities.

"It gives them a place to go where they are treated equally, have goals and expectations, work as part of a team and have constructive, meaningful things to do and participate in the workforce."

Wesley said the program gives workers with a disability an improved quality of life, a sense of purpose and higher levels of independence, confidence and self esteem associated with being employed.

Currently the program refurbishes Pentium 4 and newer processors free of charge, using the WipeDrive program as approved by the US Department of Defense. Computers of a lower specification that are unsuitable for reuse are dismantled into various waste streams for recycling, with hard drives mechanically destructed.

Wesley E-Recycling is part of the Microsoft Authorised Refurbisher program, and offers refurbished computers at a low cost to disadvantaged individuals, families and community groups. Refurbished computers are also donated to various charity projects both in Australia and abroad.

Revenue generated from the sale of refurbished computers goes towards the operational costs of running the program.

The Universities of Sydney and NSW, the Walt Disney Company, Sydney Airports Corporation, Ambulance Service of NSW, and OAMPS Insurance Brokers are some of the companies that have taken part in Wesley's E-recycling program since it launched in mid-2007.

Wesley is also partnering with Parramatta Council in western Sydney and Cleanaway to process all of the equipment collected from an e-waste trial it is running from 7-11th April, and is negotiating collaboration with the Sydney-based councils of Canterbury, Liverpool, and Holroyd.

Currently the program accepts the following IT equipment, with plans to accept more household electronics slated for the near future: desktops/PC towers; monitors (incur a fee); laptops; servers; hard drives; modems; computer power supplies; motherboards; network & memory cards; DVD players; mobile phones; digital and video; cameras; cables; VCR players; CD players; PDA's and MP3 players.

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Andrew Hendry

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