When school closures prompted by COVID-19 rendered many local children unable to access their classes, Urban Mining CEO Steven Kaufman sensed an opportunity for his company to help.
Urban Mining, a local electronics recycling facility, routinely processes computers and other electronic equipment, both for resale to the public and to be donated to organizations that help at-risk children gain access to technology. But with classes moving online due to COVID-19, the number of Jacksonville-area children in need of technological equipment exploded.
For some families, it was as simple as ordering a new laptop or tablet. But for the estimated 22% of local children who live in poverty, such an expense was simply not an option – a reality that was not lost upon Kaufman.
“They don’t have enough money to eat, let alone buy a laptop,” says Kaufman.
For those children, the ability to access a computer at safe, controlled environments – such as the Boys and Club of Northeast Florida or the Northeast Florida STEM2 Hub, both clients of Urban Mining – is important at all times, but critical during an event that requires distance learning as well as social distancing.
VyStar Credit Union Partnership
One of Urban Mining’s clients, VyStar Credit Union, contacted Kaufman to discuss recycling services for 50 desktop computers, complete with monitors, Wi-Fi adapters, and other peripherals.
In most cases, when a client turns over their old electronics to Urban Mining, there’s an expectation that the company will re-sell the equipment – or its spare parts – and give some of the proceeds back to the client. VyStar instead decided to donate the computers to Urban Mining, and Urban Mining is in turn processing them and donating them to the Boys and Girls Club.
“It’s our duty to make a difference in the communities we serve,” said Brian Wolfburg, VyStar’s president and CEO. “We are delighted to give students the technology they need to succeed in school during these difficult times. We appreciate Urban Mining helping us on this project and urge other companies to do the same.”
VyStar isn’t the only local company to donate to Urban Mining; in the past few years, they’ve received a donation of 500 laptops from the PGA Tour as well as $15,000 of equipment from Florida Blue.
Donated computers and equipment go to either the Boys and Girls Club or toward its “Closing the Digital Divide” partnership with STEM2 Hub.
The E-Recycling Process
Computers, laptops, and other technological equipment donated to Urban Mining go through a series of steps before reaching their final destination.
First, any existing data on the device is securely destroyed, both to wipe the device clean and to protect its clients’ data. After that, the device’s condition is evaluated to determine if it can be properly repaired or refurbished. If it can, the repairs are made, and the device is donated.
If it can’t, the device is taken apart and put back into the manufacturing stream as raw materials. Nothing from any of its devices ends up in a landfill, with Urban Mining being the only e-recycling company in Florida that is certified by e-Stewards as a responsible e-recycler.
Inspiring a New Generation
Kaufman hopes that the VyStar donation will be just the first of many inspired by the ongoing pandemic, which may very well bring about another round of school closures this fall. And, going beyond COVID-19, he believes in the importance of making more computers and other electronics available to children experiencing poverty or in other at-risk situations.
“If a kid graduates and gets a job in computer coding, that’s a $50,000 a year job,” says Kaufman. “It really can be a generational change if you get these kids going in a different direction.”
His goal, which he acknowledges as “unreasonable,” is to make a laptop or computer available to every single at-risk child in the Jacksonville area.
“If you look at the amount of equipment and the investments that local businesses spend on IT and IT infrastructure,” he says, “you know what, it’s achievable.”
Companies looking to donate equipment can contact Kaufman and Urban Mining at firstname.lastname@example.org or (904) 330-0283.