Taking Out the Trash Is Complicated—but It Doesn’t Have to Be

Most businesses have one: that repository of old furniture, office equipment, and computers that have been removed from service but are still serviceable. The repository may be a closet, or it may be a warehouse, but it’s there nonetheless. And getting rid of what it contains can be as hard as getting rid of a stray cat or an unwanted houseguest.

One solution, of course, is to put everything out with the trash or to haul it to a landfill. That works, but there are real costs involved. For example, tipping fees at U.S. landfills average about $50 per ton and in some communities exceed $100. What’s more, landfills are rarely conveniently located (unless your business is in an industrial area), so you have to factor in staff time if you don’t pay a waste hauler to do the job.

A second option is to haul the items to your local Goodwill Industries or Habitat Restore location, which eliminates the cost, if not the time, required. The main challenge here is knowing what a charity does or doesn’t accept. (Most probably won’t take that warehouse full of cubicle partitions you’re trying to get rid of!)

A third option is to list items on a website like Craigslist, eBay Classifieds, or Kijiji (Canada’s answer to Craigslist). That can work well for a few items but can be quite time-consuming with more due to all the questions you’ll have to answer–What color is that desk? Can you send me the measurements? What condition is it in? What are your hours? Can someone help me load it?

Electronics present a special challenge. Depending on your location, certain charities may or may not accept computers and other technology products. For example, Goodwill stores in Louisville, Ky., don’t accept computers, while those just a few miles away in the city’s Indiana suburbs do, thanks to an agreement with Dell Reconnect (http://www.dellreconnect.com/). And half of U.S. states have now passed legislation mandating e-waste recycling in some form; the Electronics Take Back Coalition (http://www.electronicstakeback.com) offers comprehensive state-by-state information.

Given the ongoing challenge of getting rid of serviceable office furniture and computers, a Canadian startup called eevig is using technology to tackle the problem. It is now beta-testing a service that matches corporate and municipal donors with four categories of recipients: charities, nonprofit organizations, postsecondary students, and veterans in their own communities.

Company leaders say the new service offers two key advantages over other solutions. First, donors are matched with recipients in fields where they have an interest, whether that’s health promotion, adult education, or youth employment. “We’ll try to make the best match possible,” says CEO Jennifer Porodo. “In the event that that doesn’t happen, there’s an entire database of those four groups which they can repurpose to.” Second, donors receive a third-party-assured sustainability report, which they could use in their corporate social responsibility reporting. “They have a way to keep track of what they’re giving; and not only that, but they have a sustainability report, something tangible they’re able to use in their annual report,” says Chief Sustainability Officer Calvin Dalton (who happens to be an Eagle Scout).

The service does come at a cost. Porodo says eevig will charge donors a monthly fee as well a fee for downloading sustainability reports. “Our giver base is already paying to dispose of their items,” she says. “This is just another opportunity for them to dispose of their items in a more social, environmentally friendly manner.”

Currently, eevig is testing its service in Toronto, which will remain its home base. However, the software is easily scalable, so the service could expand across Canada and into the United States once it launches (tentatively by the end of 2016).

In its beta test, Porodo says eevig has repurposed everything from a single office chair, which went to a college student, to a massive wagon-shaped kiosk, which went to a nonprofit theater group. Much more such repurposing is likely once the service goes live.

“Ideally we’d look to disrupt the junk removal business,” Porodo says.