It’s a new year, and if your resolutions include cleaning up and clearing out, several local nonprofits can help kick-start those goals.
“This is great timing, since lots of people got new electronics for Christmas and they are clearing out their old stuff. If they can recycle what they don’t want anymore, it is a good way to keep things out of the landfills while also creating jobs,” said Beki Quintero, recycling education coordinator for Tucson Clean & Beautiful, which is sponsoring an E-Waste Collection Event from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, in the parking lot of Texas Roadhouse, 968 W. Irvington Road.
The collection is one of four staged annually by Tucson Clean & Beautiful, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving and improving the environment, conserving natural resources and enhancing quality of life in Tucson and eastern Pima County. The organization provides a variety of programs ranging from recycling and buffelgrass removal to tree planting, water harvesting and more.
The e-waste event is presented in partnership with city of Tucson Environmental Services, Texas Roadhouse and RISE Equipment Recycling Center, a nonprofit subsidiary of COPE Community Services.
RISE is an authorized Microsoft refurbisher that processes donated office equipment and furniture to sell at a reduced price to nonprofit organizations and their clients and to low-income families. In the process, it provides training skills and job opportunities for those interested in learning to refurbish computers and electronics, people logging community-service hours and those with special needs.
Additionally, RISE offers a program that allows individuals and families to earn a free computer in exchange for volunteering.
“In this day and age there is a big technology gap between the haves and the have-nots,” said Ruben Vejar, general manager of RISE. “Lots of families come to us because their child needs a computer for school; they need to get online to do assignments and research and the library isn’t a good option because it is far away and limits the amount of time you can spend on a computer. This program helps those families obtain a computer.”
Vejar said in spite of the fact that the organization has provided thousands of computers to area families over the past 20 years — it refurbished about 800 last year alone — many people are unaware of its existence. RISE has also supplied computers to the YWCA of Southern Arizona, the Tucson Wildlife Center and other local nonprofits, churches and faith-based organizations.
“We are a well-kept secret, unfortunately. I wish the business community and the public were more aware of our services so that we could get more business donations. Businesses tend to use their computers for only four to five years before they replace them, and we are a perfect place for them to donate their computers. We have machines to wipe the hard drives clean, which is very important as opposed to just donating them to a thrift shop, which many people do,” said Vejar.
He emphasized that in addition to providing jobs and assisting low-income families with obtaining computers, RISE also minimizes electronic waste in the environment by accepting donations of both working and nonworking items from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays at the RISE retail store, 1134 S. Park Ave.
“According to the EPA, 70 percent of the toxic waste in landfills comes from electronics and only 12 to 16 percent of electronics are refurbished or recycled,” Vejar said. “We repurpose electronics and our volunteers learn to fix equipment. We are able to put lots of items back into use again so they don’t end up in the landfills. ... A lot of this equipment has lots of life left — maybe it just needs cleaning or adjustment or a part replaced — and we can help with that.”
The refurbished electronics include not only computers, laptops, monitors, printers and office equipment, but also DVD players, flat-screen televisions and stereo equipment. The RISE retail store also offers small appliances such as microwaves, blenders and vacuum cleaners; all items are available for purchase by the public.
Another option to recycle and reuse is the Freecycle Post-Holiday Swap and Shred from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at Woods Memorial Library, 3455 N. First Ave.
Now in its 10th year, the annual event offers the opportunity to trade unwanted items in good condition — clothing, toys and games, kitchen and household items, books, holiday items, small electronics and much more.
“The swap is a big community recycling celebration. It is a lovely goodwill event,” said Elizabeth Salper, library associate at Woods and the event coordinator.
Salper said that the event is a collaborative effort not only between the library and the community, but also between the offices of Ward Three Councilman Paul Durham and Pima County Constable Bennett Bernal, who provide document shredding in the parking lot. Shredding is free for one standard-sized box of documents and is limited to three boxes; if shredding exceeds one box, a small donation is requested to benefit Lend A Hand Senior Assistance, a nonprofit that provides services to help the elderly remain independent in their homes.
Items left over after the swap are donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tucson.