Students to recycle electronic waste on Day of Service

Courtesy Photo / Tijana Matovic
Volunteers help disassemble electronic components for recycling at Comprenew, a local business.

Courtesy Photo / Tijana Matovic Volunteers help disassemble electronic components for recycling at Comprenew, a local business.

Molly Waite

Millions of pounds of electronic waste are waiting to be torn apart by students from Grand Valley State University.

Comprenew, a local non-profit company that recycles electronics like computers and cell phones, will host GVSU student volunteers on Jan. 15 for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Students will help Comprenew to fulfill its mission to recycle e-waste and educate the local community about the importance of recycling electronics.

“By partnering up with the different organizations and schools in the community, we can keep our costs relatively low while educating people on e-waste,” said Kyle Shoemaker, Comprenew general manager. “There’s over a million pounds of electronic waste that is sitting in our warehouse, waiting to be processed. When Grand Valley students walk through the doors of our warehouse, we see it kind of hit home about how much e-waste just the West Michigan community generates.”

The disposal of electronics is not only an environmental issue, but also an issue of identity protection.

“Most people don’t know what sort of information is on their computer,” Shoemaker said. “They think that if they just unplug their computer, take out the motherboard and smash it that it no longer works. But if that hard drive is not secured and wiped, you can lose a lot of your information to the wrong hands. This business is not about taking as much e-waste as possible, getting it out the door and making money. It’s about making sure you process it in the right way.”

Comprenew accepts waste from individuals as well as large companies in the area. Most of the waste is broken down and recycled, but some electronics and parts of electronics are refurbished and sold at a discounted price.

The students who volunteer at Comprenew help prevent identity theft and similar issues by removing the hard drives from computers. After the hard drives are removed, they are wiped of data and then completely disassembled.

The GVSU Community Service Learning Center has worked with Comprenew on various service projects.

“It is a popular place to volunteer because the work is very hands on,” said Valerie Jones, assistant director of Student Life. “At the end of their experience, students can physically see what they have accomplished and contributed to the organization. It is also popular because the elimination of the e-waste aligns with GVSU’s commitment to sustainability, so our students are able to be part of this sustainable practice.”

Senior Tijana Matovic is one of the many GVSU students who has volunteered at Comprenew.

“What they are doing is pretty awesome,” Matovic said. “We tore apart some computers and we worked there for about three hours. It was an amazing, positive experience. I’ve volunteered for other environmental organizations before, but this was by far the best.”

Comprenew relies on the GVSU students that help disassemble electronics, Shoemaker said. Volunteers help support Comprenew’s mission to keep e-waste out of landfills and out of the wrong hands.

“We lead with electronics recycling, but we achieve that mission of keeping this stuff out of the landfill and recycling it in an environmentally friendly manner by partnering up with people like Grand Valley,” Shoemaker said. “This biggest support we’ve received from Grand Valley has come to us through word of mouth. Some of these students come in and only have ten to 40 hours, and they think, ‘Well, what can I really do to help out?’ But that steady trickle of students coming in to volunteer their time is a huge help to us.”

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