Drexel University Online - March and May

Green Goods and Services: A New Niche in the Economy for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

What is the Green Goods and Services (GGS) Industry? If you guessed it has something to do with recycling you are partially correct. Green Goods and Services is a broad category of our economy defined by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). “The BLS definition of green goods and services includes jobs in businesses that produce goods and provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources. These goods and services are sold to customers, and include research and development, installation, and maintenance services” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013a). Green Goods and Services include one or more of the five following categories:

 

  1. Energy from renewable sources
  2. Energy Efficiency
  3. Pollution reduction and removal, greenhouse gas reduction, and recycling and reuse
  4. Natural resource conservation
  5. Environmental compliance, education and training, and public awareness (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013a).

The Green Goods and Services (GGS) industry accounts for 2.6% of total employment in the United States which translated into 3.4 million jobs in 2011 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013b). The handling of e-waste is a fast growing sector of GGS that could employ thousands of individuals on the autism spectrum. E-waste refers to electronics such as cell phones, computers, and televisions that Americans throw away. This incredibly wasteful practice is harmful to our environment. By volume e-waste only represents 2% of our landfill, but because of the materials used in the construction of their components (including batteries), e-waste accounts for 70% of the overall toxic waste in our country (Do Something.org, 2014). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), e-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the United States. Globally, society produces 20-50 metric tons of e-waste each year (Do Something.org, 2014). Much of this waste is not waste at all. It does not need to be relegated to a landfill. People discard 80-85% of their electronics (Do Something.org, 2014). Some of these devices can be refurbished and resold or donated in their entirety. Other devices can be disassembled and their components can be refurbished or re-sold. Electronics use a great deal of precious metals including gold, silver, copper, and palladium all of which can be harvested and reused.

Every community in the United States will need to deal with the issue of e-waste. This provides individuals on the autism spectrum an opportunity to find meaningful employment at a living wage. Each stage of the e-waste process will provide employment opportunities that will capitalize upon their strengths, interests and aptitudes. The first stage of the e-waste process involves assessing an asset that is discarded or donated. Individuals at this point in the process will need to have a healthy set of computer skills. They will need to be able to use software to catalog and track the asset. They will also need to be able to determine whether or not the asset can be refurbished and re-sold. They will also need to be able to determine which parts of the computer or electronic device could be refurbished and re-sold, if the device in its entirety cannot be put back into service. These individuals (often referred to as auditors), then determine the next step of the process: disassembly or de-manufacturing. The de-manufacturing process requires an individual who has good manual dexterity and attention to detail. The de-manufacturers turn over the parts to the materials handlers who sort the pieces and send them to various other entities that may meltdown the plastics and precious metals for their use in the manufacturing of new products.

After the sequestration budget cuts of 2013, the federal government is no longer tracking the jobs in the Green Goods and Services industry. However, the U.S. Department of Labor publishes the Occupational Outlook Handbook, on an annual basis, which provides the reader with a myriad of data on job trends, specific educational and training requirements for different types of jobs, and the median income for specific job titles. One can look at the jobs in the recycling industry as a whole to get a benchmark for jobs in the e-waste industry. Materials handlers in this field will have the least number of educational requirements. Consequently, their median income will be the lowest of the three tiers of employees in this industry. In 2010, materials movers in the traditional re-cycling industry had a median income of $23,570 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014a). This is an annual wage across the country and across employers. Half of the individuals will make below the median and half will make above that amount. This figure could be a living wage for some single individuals in certain parts of the country. De-manufacturers of disassembly technicians are the critical second stage of the e-waste process. Although the BLS does not track this job title specifically, it does track comparable jobs referred to as assemblers or fabricators. This classification of jobs had a median income of $28,580 in 2012 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014b). De-manufactures’ wages may fall between this benchmark and that of computer and office machine repair technicians’ whose median income was $38,310 in 2013 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014c). Auditors in the e-waste industry will have the highest level of educational and training requirements. Their educational and training requirements may range from a postsecondary vocational certificate to an associate degree. With this type of educational requirement the compensation is significantly higher than a materials handler in this field. Again, BLS does not specifically tracker auditors in this field, but they do report the median income of Electro-mechanics which have similar responsibilities to auditors. Their median income was $51,820 in 2012 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014d).

e-Works™ Electronic Services Incorporated (ESI) is one of the nation’s leading e-waste companies. This not for profit organization’s mission is to provide employment to individuals with developmental disabilities. “e-Works achieves this mission by providing competitive recycling, refurbishment and resale services of all types of office and industrial technologies and consumer electronics” (e-works, 2013). e-Works™ partners with local social service agencies that provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities across the United States. Not only does e-Works™ partner with these agencies, but it also trains the agency employees to provide certification programs for their clients to work in the e-waste industry, and sets up work sites for the processing of electronic equipment which provides jobs to people with autism and other developmental disabilities.

New York Institute of Technology Vocational Independence Program (VIP) is proud to announce its partnership with e-Works™ ESI. The two organizations are developing a certificate program for the Vocational Independence Program students in the areas of computer and electronics auditing, de-manufacturing, and parts handling. The certificate programs are scheduled to launch fall 2014.

Working in the Green Goods and Services industry provides individuals on the autism spectrum with meaningful jobs that pay a living wage. Simultaneously, these individuals provide society with a badly needed service through the safe and responsible handling of e-waste. The potential for employment of individuals on the autism spectrum in this industry is great.

Ernst VanBergeijk is the Associate Dean and Executive Director, at New York Institute of Technology Vocational Independence Program (VIP). The Vocational Independence Program is a U.S. Department of Education approved Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary (CTP) program. nyit.edu/vip. Dr. VanBergeijk also administers Introduction to Independence (I to I), a seven week summer college preview program for students ages 16 and up.

References

Do Something.org (2014). 11 Facts about e-Waste. Retrieved from: https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-e-waste July 22, 2014.

 

e-Works ESI (2013). The e-Works Mission. Retrieved from http://www.eworksesi.org/mission.html August 15, 2014.

 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (2013a). Frequently asked questions #2: What is the Green Goods and Services Survey (GGSS) definition of green goods and services? Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ggs/ggsfaq.htm#2 August 20, 2014.

 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013b). Green Goods and Services News Release March 19, 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ggqcew.htm July 22, 2014.

 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014a). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/green/recycling/#sorters August 15, 2014.

 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014b). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/production/print/assemblers-and-fabricators.htm August 15, 2014.

 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014c). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes492011.htm August 15, 2014.

 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014d). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/print/electro-mechanical-technicians.htm August 15, 2014.

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