Skip to main content
Move the World.
electronic waste recycling

Lead Image © Sergey / Adobe Stock

There is no obvious solution for recycling electronics. Are they plastic, metal, or hazardous chemicals? Electronic waste is the fastest-growing garbage stream in the world. But breaking down the gadgets into recyclable parts is slow work.

But Tech Dump, a Minnesota nonprofit, is up to the task — and they're focusing on employing recently incarcerated men and women, providing real-world job experience to people who might need another chance.

"My hope is that Tech Dump is not only a place that is employing people that are often overlooked because of a criminal background, but that that we are also proving that a business can be successful by prioritizing our work on this amazing group of talent," said Amanda LaGrange, the CEO of Tech Dump, in a video.

"My hope is that Tech Dump is not only a place that is employing people that are often overlooked because of a criminal background, but that that we are also proving that a business can be successful by prioritizing our work on this amazing group of talent."

Amanda LaGrange

"We're proving those stereotypes wrong. We're showing that they are amazing people that might have had experience with the justice system and have so much to bring to our community."

LaGrange's friend first conceived of the idea for Tech Dump because they wanted to build a business that employed ex-offenders. Eventually, they focused on the task of recycling and repurposing discarded electronics and e-waste.

And, with electronic waste being an ever-expanding trash stream, business is good.

The nonprofit offers recently incarcerated people a work-readiness program that provides job training and professional experience for 18 months to give men and women the skills they need to get a job.

So far, Tech Dump is on a roll — recycling three to four million pounds of electronic waste a year.

"We recycle anything with a cable, cord, or battery," says LaGrange, adding that the most common items are laptops, desktops, flat-screen TVs, and old tube-style TVs.

The staff manually breaks down each electronic waste item, one by one, with hand tools, drills, and screwdrivers, removing tiny screws and salvaging any parts they can. Some things are refurbished and sold at the sister resale store, Tech Discounts, reports Grist. Other items are dismantled into the plastic, aluminum, or copper components and recycled.

Diverting electronics from landfills is important work, too.

"We underestimate how harmful the contents of our electronics are," says LaGrange. Lead, mercury, polybrominated flame retardants, and lithium are only a few of the harmful elements contained in electronic waste. For example, there can be up to three kilograms of lead in an old-style CRT computer screen. If dumped in a badly designed landfill, that could leach into the ground and contaminate our drinking water.

LaGrange hopes that by reclaiming some of those materials, there will be less toxic waste, damage to the environment, and less destructive mining.

"When I think of who inspires me in this industry, it's my team," she says. "They are recycling important resources."

We'd love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or if you have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at [email protected]

Up Next

Future of Cities
Paving the Way With Recycled Roads
Paving the Way With Recycled Roads
Future of Cities
Paving the Way With Recycled Roads
The world is facing a massive build up of waste. But this solution of recycled roads may pave the way for a cleaner future.

A recycled road has been paved with asphalt that contains the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of plastic bags, along with thousands of glass bottles and printer cartridges’ worth of waste toner. In addition to the sheer amount of recycled materials the process will divert away from landfills, these longer-lasting roads also help to reduce the carbon footprint of construction.

Robotics
Recycling Robot Keeps Waste Out of Landfills
recycling robot
Robotics
Recycling Robot Keeps Waste Out of Landfills
AMP Robotics has developed a recycling robot that uses AI to sort recyclables twice as quickly as humans can.

AMP Robotics has developed a recycling robot that uses AI to sort recyclables twice as quickly as humans can.

Holograms
Holographic Collaboration May Be the Future of Work
Holographic Collaboration
Holograms
Holographic Collaboration May Be the Future of Work
Campfire emerges from stealth with an integrated system for real-time, remote 3D collaboration.

Campfire emerges from stealth with an integrated system for real-time, remote 3D collaboration.

Virology
Can CRISPR Engineer Immunity to Avian Flu in Chickens?
avian flu in chickens
Virology
Can CRISPR Engineer Immunity to Avian Flu in Chickens?
An outbreak of avian flu in chickens can mean millions of birds dead and billions of dollars lost. This startup wants to engineer flu-resistant poultry.

An outbreak of avian flu in chickens can mean millions of birds dead and billions of dollars lost. This startup wants to engineer flu-resistant poultry.

Outer Space
Signs of Life Found On Venus
signs of life on venus
Outer Space
Signs of Life Found On Venus
Scientists found the gas, phosphine, in Venus’ atmosphere. So far, the only explanation is alien life.

Scientists found the gas, phosphine, in Venus’ atmosphere. So far, the only explanation is alien life.

Medical Innovation
Human-Like "Organ Chips" Could Eliminate Animal Studies
organ chips
Medical Innovation
Human-Like "Organ Chips" Could Eliminate Animal Studies
To rapidly test for COVID-19 treatments without animal studies, researchers make a model human body out of “organ chips.”

To rapidly test for COVID-19 treatments without animal studies, researchers make a model human body out of “organ chips.”

Building Community
The Shipping Containers Used for Conversations
The Shipping Containers Used for Conversations
Watch Now
Building Community
The Shipping Containers Used for Conversations
Would you talk to a stranger on the other side of the world?
Watch Now

Frequently seen being hauled by semi-trucks on the highway or stacked on the decks of cargo ships, these shipping containers are now being used in a different way, as a portal to connect people across the globe and facilitate conversation. Step inside and you can be instantly connected to someone on a different continent, with whom one can talk and share music, thoughts, and ideas. The creator of Portals hopes this...

Science
What to Expect In a Post-Meat Future
What to Expect In a Post-Meat Future
Science
What to Expect In a Post-Meat Future
From advanced plant-based meat alternatives to real meat grown in a lab, the days of eating meat from once-living...
By Mike Riggs

From advanced plant-based meat alternatives to real meat grown in a lab, the days of eating meat from once-living animals could be numbered.