Irresponsible destruction of electronic waste can be a nasty business. Dell recognized many years ago that our customers wanted a convenient, safe and secure program for disposing their used electronics. We also recognized that our responsibility to our communities and the environment extends beyond simply building a product with the Dell name on it.
Rather than viewing the situation as a liability, we believed that e-waste didn’t have to be “waste” at all. What the Western world may view as obsolete technology can power new possibilities in developing economies, allowing a student in Africa to access the Internet or enabling a small business owner to gain new customers. Even when computers aren’t functional, they contain valuable metals and materials whose reuse can help preserve natural resources. We wanted to build a program that would benefit Dell, our customers and our communities.
We learned quite a lot in the first few years. Our early surveys showed that the vast majority of customers wanted to give their end-of-life electronics to a nonprofit. In 2004, we began working with Goodwill Industries of Central Texas — a well-known leader in reuse and recycling of everything from clothes to furniture to appliances. At the same time, the city of Austin was also investigating options for recycling e-waste rather than sending it to a landfill, so the three of us teamed up for the Austin Computer Recycling Project.
You can imagine the excitement as we launched the pilot year of the program. We divided Austin into six collection zones. Consumers could call the City of Austin’s solid waste hotline to let us know they had a computer for collection; then they would leave it curbside, and we’d helpfully collect it and ensure it was recycled or reused. We alerted Austin residents through a marketing campaign and waited for the material to come in.
And waited. The program didn’t generate nearly the calls we’d anticipated.
However, we noticed a dramatic increase of computer drop-offs at local Goodwill locations. We came to understand that our consumers saw intrinsic value in their used computers, and they didn’t want to leave them in the weather waiting for pickup in their yard. By providing drop-off locations at local Goodwills, we could still provide a convenient service. Better yet, customers could interact directly with Goodwill and see for themselves the wonderful work undertaken by their local nonprofit. Dell Reconnect was born.
After refocusing the Austin program with a drop-off model, we expanded to the Bay Area and then tested a statewide network in Michigan. Today, the Dell Reconnect program has presence in 44 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. With more than 2,000 drop-off locations in North America, it has diverted more than 250 million pounds of e-waste from landfills since 2004.
Dell Reconnect accepts all brands of used computer equipment in any condition and ensures they’re recycled responsibly, in adherence to Dell’s strict global standards. All revenues from the resale value go to Goodwill. As an added advantage, many Goodwill shoppers get lower-cost access to technology via well-priced refurbished computers. And the program creates green jobs for workers at Goodwill who sort and repair the systems, helping to fulfill Goodwill’s mission of putting people back to work.
For Dell, this program is one of many we run around the world to ensure our customers have a reliable and safe way of recycling their old equipment. We offer free mail-back or consumer collection recycling programs in 79 countries. Of those programs, Dell Reconnect is easily the most recognizable. For consumers, it has come to represent a brand that stands for responsibility, convenience and community.
Dell is committed to powering the possible — putting our technology and expertise to work where it can do the most good for people and the planet. The Dell Reconnect program is a stellar example of that promise. It’s good for our business, as it provides a valuable customer service and helps us fulfill our responsibility to manage our products at the end of their life. It’s good for people, supporting such an important nonprofit as Goodwill and helping it provide jobs for people with disabilities and disadvantages. And it’s good for the planet, because it keeps electronics out of landfills and ensures they’re handled responsibly.