By Michael Caduto
Last year, Sustainable Woodstock—partnering with the Greater Upper Valley Solid Waste Management District and Good Point Recycling—collected, shredded and recycled two tons of paper and collected over four tons of used electrics. In 2021 we will again stage this event at the Woodstock Union High School & Middle School parking lot from 10:00AM-1:00PM on Saturday, October 16. Good Point will accept sensitive documents for shredding, as well as used electronics for reuse and recycling.
About 20% of equipment collected by Good Point is refurbished for reuse. Some TVs and computers are wholesaled to Vermont stores that sell restored second-hand equipment. Parts and working machines are sold nationwide. Good Point also partners with a job training program based out of Addison County that teaches skills for repairing and refurbishing used electronics.
Electronics that cannot be refurbished are responsibly recycled and much of the material is processed for reuse. Good Point disassembles components by hand and sorts plastics according to type for recycling, including ABS, HIPS and LDPE. Glass, tubes, circuit boards and monitors are used domestically and overseas. Raw materials—aluminum, steel, copper and iron—are sourced to spot markets. This mitigates harm done to the environment by reducing the need for virgin resources extracted from the Earth.
Good Point is a primary sponsor of Fair Trade Recycling through WR3A (World Reuse, Repair and Recycling Association). Fair trade upholds ethical export standards for e-waste issues, including fair treatment of importers and safety standards for management of toxins in the waste stream. (fairtraderecycling.net) Good Point also supports using recycled gold from circuit boards.
Good Point has facilitated meetings between members of the USA National Electronics Service Dealers Association and electronics repair companies and organizations based out of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. These gatherings decide what kinds of repairs are worth making, which electronics can be refurbished for reuse, and which need to be recycled. The company’s strict international standards, and the protocols it uses in audits and permits for the life-cycle of used electronics, made it the first company to be approved by the EPA for such exports.
We recently caught up with Good Point Recycling founder, Robin Ingenthron, who was just included at #36 on Recycling International’s list of the 100 Most Notable Recyclers in the World. Good Point’s work has been featured in Recycling International magazine, as the cover story for Recycling Today, in WasteDive for their efforts in solar panel recycling, and on NPR’s Marketplace and Living on Earth.
Why does electronics recycling matter?
The most polluting industry on earth is hard rock metal mining. The non-ferrous metals and minerals that make up electronics are mined in rain forests and from coral islands and federal lands at enormous cost. Future generations will be dealing with the fact that 14 of the 15 largest USA superfund sites are at abandoned mines for gold, palladium, copper, mercury, etc. Those generations will be aghast that we threw those metals away, or used them for less than 5 years.
What are the legal standards for electronics recycling? Do you follow EPA rules?
When my wife was hired at Middlebury College in 1998, I was Division Director at Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, with a staff of around 20 and an $8M budget. When I followed her to Vermont, my first jobs were consulting for DEP, EPA, NERC and international software and hardware manufacturers. We helped develop what is now called a “Fair Trade Recycling” standard, and helped EPA develop the “Responsible Recycler” or “R2” standard we are annually certified for.
Vermont is said to be the top state in the USA for e-waste management. How did that happen?
Vermont’s E-Cycles program, which we are the primary contractor for, was established ten years ago. It charges a share of the recycling fees to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), and involves the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to oversee our standards and recycling practices, which emphasize reuse, repair and recycling.
You said that Good Point Recycling is considered an expert in “Right To Repair” laws. How are you fighting Planned Obsolescence?
We testified for the Federal Trade Commission, Vermont legislature, New York and Massachusetts, on Right to Repair bills. We pointed out that many of the “planned obsolescence” practices to hinder repair and reuse were already illegal under the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This month, President Biden announced that the FTC will start enforcing anti-repair practices in all 50 states.
How does Good Point protect private data on legacy devices?
The R2 standard we are certified to includes background checks on staff, monitoring of hard drive erasure or shredding by third parties, site security, etc. There has never been an actual example of data being stolen from old obsolete electronics; virtually all data theft today is online, via phishing, or theft of devices in active use.
Does Good Point Recycling pay Vermont’s Living Wage?
Not only do we make the Vermont Living Wage our base pay, we are a top employer through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the business representative on the Vermont State Rehabilitation Council. We see people for what they can do, rather than for what they cannot do, and that has been the secret of our company’s 20 years of success.
How does a small company like yours stay on the cutting edge of electronics recycling?
We stay involved with top universities who are studying the controversies and debate in the e-waste trade. In 2013, Middlebury College hosted the Basel Convention, EPA, and researchers from MIT, Memorial U, USC and 6 other colleges to discuss “fair trade recycling” and to research our practices. The devices we recycle keep evolving, and we have to keep up in order to future-proof our Vermont recycling jobs.
For more information and articles, visit https://goodpointrecycling.net/.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Participate in Sustainable Woodstock’s 2021 Electronics Recycling & Paper Shredding Day.
Only about 10% of smartphones are now being recycled. Recycling your smartphone will help reduce the need for more environmentally destructive mining to source the minerals and precious metals used in their manufacture, including gold, silver, palladium, platinum, aluminum, copper, tellurium, lithium, cobalt, manganese and tungsten. Rare earth elements can also be salvaged from old smartphones: yttrium, lanthanum, praseodymium, neodymium, gadolinium and terbium.