Valley Life for All: Blue Star Recyclers puts the ability in disability
Special to the Daily
Editor’s note: the Vail Daily, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, continues a monthly series of profiles to increase awareness of the value of people of all abilities.
DisAbility isn’t a typo on Blue Star Recyclers webpage.
“We like to exaggerate the abilities part of it,” said Kevin Emory, operations manager for Blue Star Recyclers Mountain Recycling Operations. Blue Star Recyclers takes electronic waste such as computers and DVRs and employs only people with disabilities, mostly those with autism.
“Disability is a negative term, but these individuals just haven’t had their skill set utilized.”
Blue Star Recyclers’ founder, Bill Morris, observed disabled people disassemble electronics so quickly that he saw an innate skill set for repetitive tasks and began a recycling warehouse in Colorado Springs in 2009 with employees on the autistic spectrum.
Blue Star Recyclers opened a disassembly facility in Basalt this year, where Tanner Jadwin, Lead Disassembler, is busy taking apart laptops and computer towers. Jadwin, who holds a record of disassembling 20 laptops in a day, doesn’t consider his job a drudgery.
Putting down his tools to talk, he says “My job feels like a hobby, and it turns out I’m pretty good at it.” He points to Emory, whom he’s worked with side by side since opening Blue Star Recyclers in April. “It also helps that he’s understanding and patient, for a boss.”
Emory smiles, “Tanner’s a social butterfly.”
Blue Star Recyclers, which received the 2012 Real Leaders award for making positive social or environmental impacts around the globe, focuses on a social return to the society.
“The biggest social return allows individuals that are discriminated against and gives them a sense of community. It’s an incredible workforce willing to help the community and the environment,”says Emory. Blue Star Recyclers also helps alleviate taxpayer money since the disabled earn their income instead of relying wholly on federal and state government assistance programs.
“Autistic people blow it out of the water. They hit their goals, they show up on time, and there’s low employee turnover.” Emory speaks of a “working theory” that those who are “neuro-divergent,” a.k.a., on the autistic spectrum — have a skill set that’s very task-oriented, thorough and doesn’t mind repetitive tasks.
Jadwin, who has high functioning autism, thinks he fits into this theory. “Since I was 2, I’ve taken apart electronic stuff to see how they work. When I first found out about Blue Star, I thought, this is my dream job.”
Working at Blue Star Recyclers gives Jadwin confidence, and he eventually hopes to refurbish computers. He wants people to know those with autism are similar to us all.
“It’s like the term, ‘differently able’ — there’s things we can do I’d never imagine doing.”
There will be an e-waste drop-off event in conjunction with the Glenwood Springs Noon Rotary Club at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 9, until capacity is reached at the CMC Parking Lot at 1402 Blake in Glenwood Springs. Contact Blue Star Recyclers at 720-415-0767 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Local nonprofit Valley Life For All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. Find us at ValleyLifeForAll.org or on Facebook.