Impact Recyclers: Turning E-waste into Jobs through Social Enterprise, Sarah Smith

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RecycleForce, a nonprofit electronics recycling company based in Indianapolis, employs up to 80 people that have been in the justice system. Stanley eWaste Recyclers employs 12 people on the autism spectrum in a for-profit recycling business in New York. And ReWorx, a subsidiary of NobisWorx, a social service organization in Georgia founded in 1977, creates jobs for 50 individuals with developmental disabilities and people who have been in the justice system while servicing the electronic waste recycling needs of businesses in the South East region.

These social enterprise businesses share a common purpose: they recycle, refurbish, and resell electronic waste (e-waste) to create jobs for people who would otherwise struggle to enter the workforce. Electronics waste recycling is a $20 billion industry with the potential to employ thousands, while reducing negative environmental impact of waste.
In April 2014, a few of these companies came together informally at the Social Enterprise Alliance Summit and were shocked by their likeness. And today, seven companies are creating a national network called Impact Recyclers to grow their business opportunities and create more jobs.

“Before I met these other folks,” says Bill Morris, Blue Star Recyclers’ Founder and a member of Impact Recyclers, “I thought that we were the only one doing this. When we get together, you can feel the excitement in the room and the potential for this group to do great things together as Impact Recyclers.”

Impact Recyclers is the largest national network of certified social enterprise e-waste recyclers. Members come from across the US, including Blue Star Recyclers (Colorado Springs & Denver, CO), Isidore Recycling (Los Angeles, CA), Merit Partners (Stockton, CA), RecycleForce (Indianapolis, IN), ReWorx (Marietta, GA), Stanley eWaste (New York, NY), and Tech Dump (Minneapolis, MB). They all share the mission of job creation through socially-responsible, industry-standard e-waste recycling.

In 2014, Impact Recyclers’ members generated $12.5 million in revenues and processed a combined 25 million pounds of e-waste, protecting landfills from harmful pollutants and preventing export of waste for irresponsible disposal. These businesses are well established – on average they have been in operation for five years, they perform to industry standards, (R2 or eStewards certification) and represent non-profit and for-profit business models.

What’s really exciting is that all these organizations hire people who want to work, but have the hardest time getting jobs as a core part of their mission. In 2014, Impact Recyclers employed 223 people across five states. REDF is supporting the formation of Impact Recyclers by convening the group and providing business assistance. By investing in a high-growth business sector, REDF hopes to increase job creation on a national scale for people facing barriers to work.

With REDF’s support Impact Recyclers will continue to meet regularly to build a national approach, share best practices, and develop business leads. “I’m impressed by the quality, experience, and competencies of our individual members,” says Morris, “and excited about the triple-bottom line impact we will produce together.”

To learn more about the network or get involved, please visit www.impactrecyclers.com or contact Sarah Smith at ssmith@redf.org.

Sarah Smith is REDF’s Business Partnerships Manager.