Q&A with the Electronic Recycling Association
E-waste is a growing environmental issue but one that isn’t always well known or understood. In order to learn more about e-waste and how one organization is dealing with it, we spoke to Jessica Lifely and Bojan Paduh of the Electronic Recycling Association (ERA). Operating in eleven cities across Canada, the ERA helps reduce e-waste by refurbishing old electronics and donating them to various charities. The ERA won an Emerald Award in 2016 for Community Group or Not-For-Profit Association.
How did the ERA get started?
“The idea for the Electronic Recycling Association came to me as the result of an experience I had when I first moved to Canada. Shortly after my family and I emigrated from Croatia in 1996, the church group that we belonged to gave me a computer. This seemingly small gift had an immeasurable impact on my life. Armed with this precious piece of technology, I began to learn computer science, giving me access to information at the click of a button and the ability to complete school assignments that really stood out.
Later on, I noticed, during a trip to the landfill, that there were a lot of computers being dumped there, computers that still had life in them. I was surprised that people would just throw away working technology and so I started collecting those dumped computers and fixing them. It was a hobby for me, but I quickly discovered that people really wanted, even needed, the computers that I was fixing up.
I formed the ERA because I saw a need for better management of the waste created by electronics. We cycle through devices for a variety of reasons, but often when something is perceived to be obsolete it actually has a lot of value remaining for someone else. The other reason I formed the ERA is because I know, from personal experience, how much a donated computer can mean to a family who can’t afford one. The fact that there is a significant portion of society who cannot afford technology certainly doesn’t negate the importance of it in today’s world. The ERA celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and I look forward, with great excitement, to the positive changes the ERA will continue to make in our communities and for our environment.” - Bojan Paduh, Founder and President of the ERA
What happens when someone donates something to the ERA?
“First, we arrange a date for pickup [of the used electronics] that suits the client. On the day of pickup, we ensure an inventory report is taken on all of the equipment picked up on site. Then the equipment is taken back to our warehouse where it is assessed to see if it is in working condition or not. If it is in working condition, our computer technicians ensure the device’s existing data is destroyed and then install Windows 10. The device is then cleaned up and ready for reuse. If it is not in working condition, we ensure that the device is recycled in the province it came from.” – Jessica Lifely, Business Development and Marketing Manager
What kinds of electronics does the ERA refurbish?
The ERA accepts all sorts of electronics, from laptops to TVs. Find the full list here: https://www.era.ca/electronic-recycling-accepted-items/ - Jessica Lifely
How do you ensure someone's data is protected?
We possess robust data wiping and physical destruction capabilities and it’s up to the donor to decide what works best for them. You can be assured that your data will be safe when you use the ERA’s services. The ERA offers several solutions for data security.
Physical Data Destruction
The ERA has several hard-drive shredders which can be rented and delivered directly to your location. These machines are capable of shredding hard drives, data tapes, servers and other hardware that stores data. You can choose to have us pick up your equipment for shredding or have one of our shredders brought to your facility.
The ERA uses industry-leading software to remove sensitive data from all of the equipment slated to be refurbished. However, certain software can be expensive so shredding hard-drives is recommended for those with highly sensitive data or with smaller budgets. Certain software, such as DBAN, is available for free download so you can erase the data yourself prior to donation or recycling.
What can the average person do to make a difference in regards to e-waste?
Please ensure that your e-waste is carefully taken care of and that it is donated if there is some life left inside so that someone else can benefit from your ‘trash’.
After a piece of electronics has been refurbished, where is it usually donated?
On a daily basis, we have numerous charitable organizations looking to receive a donation from us. Charities receive donations on a first come first served basis once they meet our criteria. We try to donate every day of the week in each city we operate in.
[Here is a list of charities who have received donations from the ERA].
What’s next for the ERA? Expanding into new cities?
We are always coming up with new initiatives and objectives for the future. We are currently working on opening an office in Montreal, which will hopefully be open sometime in January. Our main objective in 2018 is to donate more laptops and computers to people in need. In 2017, we quadrupled our donations compared to 2016!
[Photos provided by the ERA].