Deleting electronic clutter

In spite of their best efforts to control unwanted dumping, the staff of the Thrift Shop in Vineyard Haven often find obsolete electronics outside their door. One staff member decided to take a message to the street and posted a sign on the computer monitor explaining that this "donation" actually costs community services money to dispose of. Since posting the sign, an old TV was deposited on top of the computer. Photo by Anna Marie D'Addarie

By Eleni Collins - March 22, 2007

With technology advancing constantly from newer cell phones to faster computers, the "old" gadgets in one's home can add up. This Saturday, The Beck Group brings to the Island an Electronic Disposal Day, hosted by Martha's Vineyard Community Services (MVCS). Here, one can dispose of unwanted electronics, and at the same time, give back to the community.

For approximately one and a half years, Steve Beck of The Beck Group, has organized Electronic Disposal Days in Massachusetts and South Carolina, and soon in Florida. So far, at least 14 disposal days have raised more than $61,000 for nonprofit organizations.

Mr. Beck, a business and technology consultant for health-care providers, got the idea for this program from his clients.

"A couple clients came to me and said they couldn't afford to dispose of computers, and asked me to negotiate lower prices with recycling companies," Mr. Beck said. With the help from one company, he organized the first few disposal days.

"The first one or two were dicey," he said. "The lowest we made was $2,000 in Sandwich, and that day it rained and snowed. In North Carolina, we grossed $18,000 among three towns. The bottom line is the nonprofit gets at least 60 percent."

Electronics such as computers, televisions, microwaves, copiers, and cell phones, among many others, will be accepted, all for small fees, which range from $1 for cell phones to $10 for a computer monitor. Approximately 65 percent of that fee will go to MVCS to upgrade their own technology systems.

This truly is a service to the community - there will be discounts given for car and truck loads, collected cell phones will go to "Cell Phones for Soldiers," a group that raises money to pay for phone calls for soldiers in Iraq, and a limited number of home pickups are available for those unable to make the trip.

"I started them for high school music programs, then other nonprofits started calling - like a science center, cystic fibrosis, and AIDS research centers," Mr. Beck said. "The general rule is that if you're a certified nonprofit, then we can do it."

And do not worry about personal information stored on your ready-to-dispose computer. Mr. Beck assures people that computers will be destroyed and the remains sold to paving and other companies.

Electronics Disposal, Saturday, March 24, from 9 am to 2 pm, at MVCS, across from the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, at 111 Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs. For more information about Electronics Disposal Day, call Jan Hatchard at 508-693-7900 ext. 374.