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Recycling program provides safe technological trash disposal at MU

The program deletes all data from the collected items and recycles the components.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:14 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Throwing away compact disks and other technological trash is about as dangerous as discarding bank statements and credit cards without shredding them first.

The GreenDisk recycling program at MU, however, provides safe disposal of intellectual property.

GreenDisk, based in Sammamish, Wash., has been in business since 1993. The company collects diskettes, compact disks, printer cartridges, cellular phones, video tapes and other “technotrash,” disposes of the intellectual property, then recycles the physical components into its own brand of office supplies.

GreenDisk began working in 1996 with Alternative Community Training, a Columbia company that employs and provides round-the-clock care for people with disabilities. It has since made ACT its primary recycling facility in the nation.

ACT began recycling VHS tapes in 1991. It began focusing primarily on reformatting and reselling diskettes after it began working with GreenDisk.

Jim Williams, director of operations and community employment for ACT, said the company shipped between 200,000 and 300,000 recycled floppy disks per month when the storage devices were more popular.

GreenDisk founder and President David Becshen said the company is fully accountable for the intellectual property it destroys before recycling components, providing an audit trail that tracks disks and other equipment it receives all the way through the recycling process.

“We recognize the value of the intellectual property, not just the recyclable materials,” Becshen said.

MU was one of the first institutions to participate in GreenDisk’s Technotrash Cans pilot project. ACT put the cans in place in various spots around campus about six months ago and has had a great reception, Williams said. ACT has also shipped more than 1,000 of the cans to clients who order them.

The cans can hold up to 70 pounds of material, but GreenDisk also sells boxes, called Technotrash pack-Its. Individuals can fill the boxes with up to 20 pounds of material then ship them back to the company.

The Technotrash Cans are all shipped out of Columbia, filled, then returned to the distribution center here. ACT employees then sort the pieces, destroy the personal information, then send the recyclable components to recycling plants and resell the rest.

“We’ve got a small crew that’s been doing some recycling around the university,” Williams said. The program includes more than 20 Technotrash Cans in Ellis Library as well as the IATS and Department of Education buildings.

Williams added that ACT plans to continue the GreenDisk recycling program at MU indefinitely.

“As long as people find value in it,” he said, they will continue to collect the products.


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