Charitable Choices: Donna Gojan, Account Representative of Electronic Recycling Association

Electronic Recycling Association is one of the leading independent non-profits in the Canadian electronic waste and IT asset management landscape. They currently operate 7 local processing depots across Canada, with pickup teams for on-site removal of e-waste at each location. The program aims to offset the environmental footprint resulting from the mass-scale use of technology products while making the benefits of technology available to vulnerable communities and groups facing barriers to accessing by donating renewed equipment.

Electronic Recycling Association

What problem does it aim to solve?

The problems the Electronic Recycling Association program addresses are twofold and their lasting effects are complex. The obvious side of the e-waste coin is the ecological damage that comes with growing amounts of discarded equipment and the danger of toxic substances contained in hardware leaking into the environment. The other, often overlooked side is the social issue of the digital divide that puts individuals at a disadvantage, particularly in the areas of education, the job market and reliable access to helpful online services and digital tools.

When did you start/join it?

I joined the Electronic Recycling Association as a full-time employee in early 2017. My primary position is as an account representative. That means that my daily priority is to develop new and maintain existing relations with corporate clients, ensuring that the services of our program satisfy or exceed the expectations of the business community while advancing the commitment to sustainable practices.

In the years I’ve been with the Electronic Recycling Association I took on more responsibilities in assisting our marketing and donation teams on a number of projects from working with donation seekers to the ERA scholarship competition and other annual youth activities.

What made you want to get involved?

I was amazed in realizing how many resources can be recovered when given a chance and how much value is wasted from our society simply because of what we perceive as useful vs. junk, particularly as tech consumers. I’ve always considered myself an environmentally conscious person, but I am not ashamed to admit that first-hand experience at the Electronic Recycling Association challenged some of my own habits.

What was the situation like when you started?

The importance of reuse-first solutions was not in the general awareness of many community and corporate stakeholders. Some of the skepticism that we worked to dispel was founded in the justifiable concerns about data privacy and security which are inseparable from the IT sector today.

Cornerstones of our awareness campaigns were firstly proving that proper procedures employed while handling IT asset disposal eliminate that risk, and secondly, that the reuse of functional electronics outperforms ‘’in-bulk’’ recycling in achieving the environmental and social responsibility goals.

How has it changed since?

The covid-19 pandemic was a major factor in changing public awareness of the need in our communities for access to computers. Computers, laptops and tablets overnight changed from luxury items to a necessity, and the lack of equal availability of technology was acutely felt in every area.

On a more positive note, I’ve noticed more interest in this topic by younger generations, i.e. the ‘’digital natives’’ who are getting actively involved in their community to collect used electronics and donate them to the Electronic Recycling Association.

What more needs to be done?

Many people and charities across Canada are fighting hardships in the current post-pandemic economy, and programs like the Electronic Recycling Association, which supplies indispensable means to communities, can only survive and thrive with consistent support. Growing and expanding such programs is a continuous process. Moving reuse activities more to the center of environmental practices, where possible, would enable the long-term sustainability we need.

How can our readers help?

We are always looking to source discarded equipment, so everyone who has an old computer, laptop or other gadget looking to dispose of can donate to our program. Other ways you can get involved is through volunteering or even simply letting their school or company know about us for their obsolete IT inventory.

Do you have any events coming up?

Please visit ERA.ca for upcoming events

Where can we follow you?

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