After N.H. computer recycling and refurbishing company closes, Maine group steps up

A Maine non-profit will take over a long-running Manchester-based program that recycles electronics and turns some into low-cost computers to help the underserved, and has hopes to expand the program here.

“Philanthropic urban mining, that’s the best way I can describe it,” said Chris Martin, co-founder with partner Jodi Martin of GiveIT GetIT, a firm based in Waterville, Maine.

For more than a decade it has accepted old equipment from companies, refurbished what it can, given computers and systems to lower-income families, along with technology training and support, and resold the rest to pay for staff, buildings and transportation. What cannot be refurbished it recycles or disposes.

In New Hampshire, a similar non-profit operation was run for years by CTAC, or Computer Technology Assistance Corp., in Manchester, including a storefront operation that sold refurbished computers. But last April its founder and leader, Steve Bothwick, died, and the board of directors decided to wind up CTAC.

“We would get truckloads of donations. One of the biggest donors was Southern NH University,” said Suzanne Daschbach, board member. “We wanted to expand, but didn’t really have the means to do it.”

“We’re delighted that Give IT Get IT has done this,” she said.

Martin said companies donate items, often when they’re upgrading and need to get rid of old equipment, because it avoids the cost or effort of disposal. There may also be tax benefits.

Give IT Get IT will send a truck and take anything that’s offered: printers, network equipment, desktop systems, laptops, cables, even printing cartridges.

“We want people to give us everything. There’s no way to tell you out of the 20,000 to 40,000 items we go through every day, what can we best use,” he said. “We currently pick up and process about 800,000 pounds of surplus unwanted corporate tech each year and divert about 150,000 pounds of that ‘waste’ to beneficial reuse.”

“We really get some weird stuff like crazy calibration equipment. But it’s all good; we can sell it on eBay, helps us 100% sponsor individuals with no money,” Jodi Martin said.

Volume is important for the company, which Chris Martin describes as a “million-dollar business,” to cover fixed costs such as the $1,000-a-month electric bill in the warehouse.  That’s part of the reason they decided to take over CTAC’s business, as a way to expand further into New Hampshire. Give IT Get IT already operates on part of the Seacoast.

It will not keep CTAC’s Manchester storefront open but for the time being will operate only out of Waterville.

Give IT Get IT has R2 and eSteward certification for recycling and data destruction. The latter is important when accepting corporate material, Miller said.

“You’d be shocked at what we find for data in equipment that’s already supposedly been security screened. We kill all of that data in-house, don’t use a third party,” he said.

Although this approach has environmental benefits, keeping useful electronics out of landfills, the driving force behind the creation of CTAC was to bring technology’s benefits to the underserved, Daschbach said.

She and Bothwick had worked to develop employment programs for people with developmental disabilities, which led to a realization of the pain that lack of technology can cause.

“He was an I.T. guy. He saw there was an incredible need for people to have technology at a price they could afford in their homes – lower-income members of the community, or families with children with disabilities,” she said.

Give IT Get IT’s incentive is similar.

“You need internet, affordable devices, and education and support. All of these things together make digital inclusion possible. Without any one of them, it doesn’t work,” Jodi Martin said.

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