Turn Old Electronics Into Ed-Tech With The FundingFactory

The FundingFactory program helps schools convert printer cartridges and cell phones into computing gear.

FundingFactory recycling program helps schools convert printer cartridges and cell phones into computing gear.

By Amy Schurr

Cash-strapped school districts have access to a potential windfall many haven't yet discovered: recycling. Trade in printer cartridges or cell phones, and the rewards are there for the taking.

FundingFactory recycling program helps schools convert printer cartridges and cell phones into computing gear.

Cash-strapped school districts have access to a potential windfall many haven't yet discovered: recycling. Trade in printer cartridges or cell phones, and the rewards are there for the taking.

Founded in 1997, FundingFactory helps schools and nonprofits raise money through recycling. The company generates revenue by supplying inkjet and laser cartridges and cell phones to refurbishers. Schools receive points for each item they collect for the FundingFactory program, then redeem those points for IT gear such as desktop and notebook computers, scanners and printers.

“You're saving things that probably otherwise would have been thrown in a landfill. As a by-product, we're able to create funding for groups where funding is really tight,” says Sean Michaels, co-president of FundingFactory. Overall, FundingFactory, in Erie, Pa., has distributed $24 million in merchandise or other rewards since the program's inception.

350 million plus
Inkjet and laser cartridges thrown away each year

Source: FundingFactory

One recipient is West Boylston Public Schools in Massachusetts. Thanks to strong support for the FundingFactory program from the local community, the district has received about $32,000 worth of IT equipment, says Technology Coordinator Steve Pellowe. The bounty includes some 50 printers, digital cameras, notebooks, projector screens and projectors. “The program allows us to buy some of the things we normally couldn't fund with the budget,” Pellowe says.

An environmental science class in West Boylston Middle/High School conducts an annual challenge in which the homeroom that collects the most used printer cartridges, cell phones or a combination of both wins a breakfast. The program also draws in businesses outside the district.

A parent volunteer helped launch West Boylston's participation several years ago, and it snowballed. The district has drop boxes in both of its schools and the local post office, and local businesses can send their materials directly to FundingFactory on behalf of the district. “It doesn't really cost us anything,” Pellowe says.

Participation Plan

FundingFactory's Michaels says the typical scenario is that a school teacher or principal signs on with the program. That person reaches out to parents who in turn get their employers involved. FundingFactory provides boxes and postage-paid mailing labels.

Businesses can sign up and choose the school or nonprofit organization they want to adopt. All the points the business generates go to that school. “If they get a bunch of businesses supporting them, it ends up being like an annuity,” Michaels points out. He says this type of program also offers a welcome alternative to typical fundraisers that require students and parents to sell something. “You're not asking someone to buy candy or write a check,” Michaels says.

The company recently partnered with Sony Pictures Entertainment to spread the word about recycling through a promotional merchandising campaign tied to the movie Planet 51.

As for West Boylston School District, Pellowe says its high participation rate consistently places it in the top 10 FundingFactory performers. “We could almost fill our media center floor to ceiling with the materials we've shipped to them over the years,” he says.

On the Web:

Interested in trying recycling as a way to extend your IT budget? Find more info at www.CDWG.com/fundingfactory.

<p>Mark Lund/Jupiter Images</p>

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Apr 05 2010

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