National Cristina Foundation — Connecting Used Technology to Worthy Recipients
Though tons of e-waste are dumped in developing nations every day, not all used technology ends up that way. The National Cristina Foundation provides an important service, connecting used-technology donors to appropriate — and appreciative — recipients, who reuse or re-purpose the items for nonprofit organizations. It’s one more stop along the way before recycling — extending the life of used equipment, often by years.
This is the fourth post in a series on e-waste by writer Caryn Green. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
“The National Cristina Foundation (NCF) is a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the support of training through donated technology,” says the organization’s website. In 1984, NCF co-founders, businessman David Bruce McMahan and special education instructor Yvette Marrin experienced an “aha moment,” when McMahan’s daughter, Cristina, one of Marrin’s students, suggested her father could provide the school with much-needed computer equipment. McMahan and Marrin made a critical connection between problem and solution that resulted in the establishment of the National Cristina Foundation.
They saw a way to address the convergence of several issues: managing the increasing stockpile of millions of obsolete computers, the benefit access to computers offers disabled and disadvantaged people, and the environmental challenge of responsible reuse and recycling of outdated electronics.
“We felt sure that computers coming out of their first place of use, where they were considered of little value, could be transferred to places where they would be of great value,” Marrin stated. Since that time, the foundation has worked to assure that no functioning equipment that can be repurposed is ever wasted.
Dr. Harry “Bud” Rizer, executive director of NCF, explained the process of matching donors and recipients. “Everything we do is web-based,” he said. “Our site serves as a “virtual” warehouse. In the almost 26 years we’ve been operating, we’ve built partnerships with approximately 2000 organizations – a pre-screened network of not-for-profits, schools, and public agencies that have been approved as recipients.”
The fact that much of the donated equipment is older, with slower processing speed and less memory, is little deterrent to getting it placed. “You would simply not believe how difficult it is for nonprofits and schools to function on the operating budgets they have these days,” he said, emphasizing that dated equipment is perfectly serviceable. ”All that has really changed in a number of years now is processing speed and memory. The functionality is still the same.”
The website matches donations with qualified recipients, also providing links to responsible recyclers for equipment that cannot be placed — such as old inkjet printers and the old 486 processors that are unable to run modern-day software. “Donating organizations, companies and individuals change their equipment every few years,” he said. “And we have people initiating requests for that equipment. We don’t have to find them; they come to us.”
Besides reducing clutter, there’s an additional incentive for electronics donors: Your donation may be tax deductible. NCF encourages donors to talk with their tax professional to determine any tax advantages of donating.
NCF runs training programs for veterans, drug and alcohol rehab patients, and at-risk students. Participants learn how to refurbish donated equipment, which can then be placed with recipients.
Once a donor registers their equipment on the website, NCF takes about two weeks to match it with a recipient. If they’re unable to place the donation in that time, they e-mail the donor recommending they recycle the equipment with a responsible firm. The website provides a map where e-recyclers are listed by state.
The recyclers listed on the NCF site are believed to adhere to best practices. But, as NCF is unable to audit every step of transport of the equipment subsequent to recycling, they recommend each donor take responsibility to vet the recycler themselves, using the checklist provided below. The site will soon link to Basel Action Network (BAN) to provide a list of e-Steward™ accredited recyclers.
Any personal information should be removed from hard drives prior to donation or recycling: The NCF website provides instructions and links to assist donors.
The process is designed to be as easy and seamless as possible. “We make every effort to locate local matchups,” Rizer said. “Hopefully, you’ll get a convenient drop-off point, or the receiving partner can come pick up the donation.”
Supplying training organizations, schools and public agencies within North America is the foundation’s top priority, however they are currently working to provide equipment to organizations in Haiti.
A number of manufacturers now partner with NCF to donate equipment they receive in their TakeBack Programs. If you return your Dell, Toshiba, Hewlett Packard or Epson equipment to its place of origin, there’s a good chance it will end up in the hands of a deserving not-for-profit volunteer or student registered with the National Cristina Foundation.
How can you know that the electronics recycler you choose will handle your e-waste responsibly? Use the following checklist from the National Cristina Foundation to qualify any e-waste recycler before you donate your used equipment:
Questions to Consider When Choosing a Recycling Firm
- Does your recycler provide evidence of its permitting (including air emission and waste permits) hazardous waste generation registration and regulatory compliance history?
- Does your recycler provide evidence that 100% of your electronic assets and components are not being land filled or sent outside Canada or the US for processing?
- Does your recycler provide downstream accountability for the ultimate destination of 100% of your hardware?
- Does your recycler provide copies of their environment, health, and safety policies and practices including their emergency response plans, employee training plans and records, fire prevention and security plans?
- Does your recycler provide proof of insurance, including pollution liability insurance?
- Does your recycler provide evidence that they do not use prison labor?
- Does your recycler provide you with a certificate of recycling and destruction?
- Does your recycler provide evidence of an environmental management system, such as ISO 14000?
- Does your recycler provide evidence that suitable management systems are in place to ensure that applicable employee health and safety laws, regulations and standards are enforced?
— Published with permission from National Cristina Foundation
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Part 4: National Cristina Foundation – Connecting Used Technology to Worthy Recipients (Top of Page)