Education, Sustainability, and Technology

Buyback program reduces e-waste

Tech Defenders compensates K-12 schools by purchasing outdated electronics.

August 2, 2019
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Tech Defenders
Tech Defenders says it could buy back more than 500,000 electronic devices this year. Courtesy iStock

Many K-12 schools do not have a plan for their old and retired electronic devices, but Grand Rapids-based Tech Defenders does.

Besides being an electronics repair company, it also is in the business of buying and flipping used electronics for extended use.

Garth Stidolph, director of Tech Defenders’ K-12 buyback program, said it’s imperative for schools to have up-to-date devices for security reasons, but because most modern devices will be obsolete within two to three years, schools are left with thousands of obsolete devices — termed “e-waste” — headed for the landfill.

“Think about when you were a kid. There was a computer lab, and those computers were never upgraded,” Stidolph said. “They would leave it there until it absolutely died, put in the closet for a year or two, and then they recycled it.

“What’s happening is devices are going through planned obsolescence and can’t do the things with school testing that they need to. They still have utility in the marketplace — people can use Netflix and browse the internet on them.”

In an earlier interview with the Business Journal, Garry VonMyhr, one of the founders of Tech Defenders, said schools started to heavily implement technology into the classroom around 2012 and 2013.

The devices have an average life cycle of four years, so Tech Defenders, founded in 2014, didn’t get into the position of buying back devices and putting them back into secondary markets until around 2016.

Stidolph said the K-12 buyback program has taken off in the past couple of years. The organization has worked with thousands of schools across the country with the plan to buy hundreds of thousands of devices every year, potentially breaking 500,000 this year. 

Tech Defenders will buy back laptops and tablets from all major manufacturers like Dell, Microsoft, Apple and Samsung, as well as adaptors and other accessories. The company claims schools can be rid of their devices and be compensated in as little as 30 days.

Besides the environmental benefit of keeping thousands of pounds of e-waste out of the landfill, the buyback program also has a financial benefit for the schools that have to be stewards of public money. Being able to sell used electronics puts more money back in the schools’ pockets.

“That’s the biggest benefit,” Stidolph said. “Every school could realize the value they have left in their devices.”

Tech Defenders reported 145 institutional buyback customers in 2018.

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