Altia CEO, Mike Juran, recently learned about an impressive, local “social enterprise” called Blue Star Recyclers, a non-profit organization with locations in Colorado Springs, Denver, and Boulder. Their mission is two-fold: recycle electronic waste ethically and create jobs for people with autism and other disabilities.
Recycling of computers alone offers a significant impact on the economy. For every 10,000 tons of computer waste processed, 296 new jobs are created per year. Currently only 15-20 percent of global e-waste is recycled – so there is tremendous opportunity for growth in this area. With that mind, it’s easy to see why Blue Star has gained so much traction and support since they were founded in 2009.
The beauty of Blue Star Recyclers’ mission is that in addition to making a significant, positive economic and environmental impact, they have successfully developed a solid workforce of neurodiverse people. These workers exhibit the traits of loyal workers who appreciate their jobs and do their jobs extremely well.
“It turns out that systematically dismantling old computers for recycling purposes is the perfect job for people on the autism spectrum,” says Mike Juran. Mike is a strong advocate of the local non-profit and has encouraged Altia’s Colorado-based employees to start using Blue Star’s services.
The Blue Star website reveals that their organization has the lowest turnover, absenteeism, and lost-time accident rates in the industry. Additionally, they have achieved over 98% “on the clock” work task engagement. These figures are quite impressive considering that a vast majority of people with autism are unemployed and face many obstacles finding work — let alone work that they will excel at and enjoy.
Some of the most influential technology firms in the world are recognizing the benefits of inclusive hiring initiatives and are getting involved with the autistic employment movement. Microsoft’s “Autism @ Work” initiative aims to provide people with autism and other developmental and learning disabilities the opportunity to work through traditional barriers to gain employment so that they can utilize their own unique gifts and talents on the job. Other tech firms supporting the “Autism @ Work” initiative include SAP, Salesforce, Google, and Hewlett Packard. Many software companies are finding that autistic employees who display an acceptable level of functional and technical skills are a good fit for software testing and quality assurance type roles. Why? Persons on the autism spectrum tend to display common attributes such as a great attention to detail and the ability to focus on a single, repetitive task without losing concentration.
It will be interesting to see how both tech and non-tech companies incorporate the hiring of more neurodiverse people over the next few years. Altia plans to support the efforts of the Blue Star team and their mission by holding annual collections of electronic waste at our Colorado Springs headquarters. This year’s collection will take place on America Recycles Day, November 15.
More about Blue Star Recyclers…
Founded in 2009, Blue Star Recyclers is an e-Stewards certified, nonprofit social enterprise with a mission of ethically recycling electronics to create local jobs for people with autism and other disabilities.
The fulfillment of their mission to date has produced significant community impact, including 40 permanent jobs for people with disabilities (a workforce facing over 80% unemployment), 13 million pounds of electronics ethically recycled, and over $1 million in taxpayer savings. The most compelling aspect of their mission is the occupational statistics posted by their workforce of individuals with disabilities, which includes zero turnover, zero absenteeism, and zero lost-time accidents between 2010-2016. Additionally, as a team they posted an on-task/on-the-clock engagement rate of over 98%, which is twice that of the average American employee.
Blue Star has recycling operations in Colorado Springs, Denver and Boulder, CO, as well as partner programs in Alamosa, Canon City, Salida, and Vail, CO. In April 2017, they launched a national expansion initiative to share their mission and model with other cities in the US.
Most recently Blue Star was named 2017 Social Impact Business of the Year by the Better Business Bureau. In 2016, they were named Colorado Social Venture of the Year.