Blue Star Recyclers: Creating Opportunities for Colorado’s Developmentally Disabled Tech Workforce
Colorado Technology Association (CTA) recently toured Blue Star Recyclers’ (Blue Star) Denver facility, and we were amazed by the organization’s multifaceted, environmentally focused social enterprise. Providing the opportunity for individuals with varying development disabilities to secure gainful employment while addressing the need for increased e-waste recycling, Blue Star is creating a truly sustainable and scalable model in the heart of Colorado.
Blue Star's mission is to “ethically recycle electronics to create local jobs for people with autism and other disAbilities.” Since 2009, the organization has recycled roughly 11.5 million pounds of e-waste to help raise the staggeringly low rate of e-waste recycling in the U.S. (less than 20 percent). The organization’s 42 Denver employees are responsible for breaking down, recycling and refurbishing unwanted or end-of-life electronics from companies and residents across the state.
What makes Blue Star unique? Nearly all of their employees have some form of developmental “disAbility.” These hard-working individuals have been placed in jobs they love that align perfectly with their unique skill sets — with virtually no turnover, no absenteeism, and no lost time accidents since 2010.
Realizing the need for increased e-waste recycling, the un- and under-employment rates of the developmentally disabled workforce, and the specific skill sets of those individuals, Bill Morris, the organization’s co-founder and CEO, has created something special with his Denver-based team. Bill exalts, “At our founding, our primary mission at Blue Star was providing opportunities for meaningful employment to people with autism and other disabilities. This proves they should not be employed out of pity or sympathy, but instead out of recognition of their assets. Better still, taxpayer burden is reduced by $18.29 per hour when our folks are at work. That is a win-win-win solution!”
Beyond providing much-needed employment opportunities and making a positive environmental impact, Blue Star is actively working to build Colorado’s tech talent pipeline by paving clear pathways for their employees to enter the local IT workforce. This will include continued training opportunities and job search assistance, with the ultimate goal of securing placement of former employees with Colorado tech companies and filling the current tech talent gap.
Blue Star’s rock star employees like Nathaniel (pictured)
can break down and allocate more than 40 machines
for recycling within a single four-hour shift.
In 2017, CTA and Blue Star will further explore partnership opportunities to support the two organizations’ respective missions, giving CTA members access to discounted e-waste recycling rates and bringing computer hardware education opportunities to more youth in the Denver Metro Area. The partnership would funnel greater volumes of e-waste to Blue Star for refurbishment, recycling and responsible disposal, ultimately leading to more jobs for Colorado’s developmentally disabled tech workforce.