Recycling program re-stored
EnergyLines February 2017
Determination leads to appliance recycling success.
It all started with a phone call,
after phone call,
after phone call.
Each ending with a beep!
Susie Smith picked up the phone for the eighth time and paused before she dialed – she knew her previous attempts ended in the dreaded voicemail beep. She cautiously dialed the number. The phone rang and rang. Then again – beep. She took a deep breath knowing she had reached another dead end.
Smith, new to the role of Demand Side Management Analyst at Hoosier Energy, was charged with fixing the appliance recycling program. After a previous vendor went bankrupt she needed to find a new solution for co-op consumers to recycle working refrigerators or freezers. This program removes appliances, often old and inefficient from consumer homes, taking them off the grid to help reduce demand.
Smith believed in the value of the program but some vendors didn’t answer her calls because they thought they were avoiding a sales call.
“All I wanted was someone to just talk to me,” said Smith.
With an infectious smile and smooth sarcasm she continues, “I was really good at reaching voicemails across the state!”
This spring, she had a breakthrough. Mike Virgin, Manager at the ReStore facility in Henry County, Indiana answered her call.
Smith explained the program – how it works and the benefits for everyone involved. Mike was interested and the program began anew.
ReStore commitment to community
ReStore facilities operate based on a volunteer workforce. The way the stores work is simple. As they accept donated household items from the public, they resell them. The money they bring in helps fund future Habitat for Humanity homes in the communities they serve.
“ReStore’s commitment to community aligns perfectly with the values electric cooperatives bring to this partnership,” said Smith.
Smith ran a pilot program to test the system she developed and it was a success. For each new ReStore added to the appliance recycling network, Smith takes the time to build a strong business relationship between them and the local co-op.
Together they clearly identify how the interaction between ReStore volunteers and consumers should take place.
At Henry County REMC, the recycling program has been met with staff and member excitement.
“We are happy to use a local organization to collect these devices. The money goes right back into our community to help build homes for those in need,” said Lara Sullivan, Marketing and Member Services Manager at Henry County REMC.
The co-op’s members have been steadily calling to begin the recycle process. With 102 appliances recycled in 11 months, the program is already seeing success.
“This program is so simple and our members understand its value. It’s local; it helps members save energy, and they get to help those in need,” said Sullivan.
ReStoring a process
The process begins by co-ops scheduling their members for appliance pickups. ReStore then is responsible for picking up the items and recycling them in a responsible manner. ReStore sends information back to the co-op that a pickup has been completed so the incentive can be applied for that member.
This is the first year for the partnership and Smith loves the brand recognition ReStore brings.
“When a truck shows up at a member’s home, it is a good feeling to recognize the Habitat for Humanity ReStore name. This is an added bonus co-ops love,” said Smith.
The community connection ReStore brings is helping grow the program. With overall growth up 20 percent at participating cooperatives, the appliance recycling program has been “ReStored.”