Over two decades ago, Willie Cade began working with discarded computer equipment to help bridge the digital divide for at risk students in high school. While attending a meeting to support Chicago students, a discussion ensued focusing on the need for at-home computer ownership, which would set students up for academic success in their pursuit of furthering their education beyond high school. The then CFO of a large waste hauler offered four conference rooms full of retired computer equipment that was being stored because proper disposal was not readily known or understood. Thus began Mr. Cade’s venture into turning used computer equipment into hope.
A stakeholder group, supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, published “Responsible Recycling (R2) Best Management Practices for the Electronics Industry”, which Mr. Cade contributed to. He is currently a P.A.C.E. Stakeholder and Co-Chair of Environmentally Sound Testing, Refurbishment and Repair of Used Computing Equipment for the Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment of the Secretariat of the Basel Convention of the United Nations Environmental Program. Mr. Cade and his company founded the Electronic Reuse Conference, formerly know as ICRS in 2003. Mr. Cade is an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, where he teaches a course entitled Sustainable Life Cycle Design. He was a SB 2313 Stakeholder promoting legislation in Illinois to reward reuse in extended producer responsibility legislation for used electronics. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed this legislation into practice at Mr. Cade’s facility. He testified in 2009 before the House Committee on Science and Technology for the 111th Congress to lend his expertise on the issue of Electronic Waste: Investing in Research and Innovation to Reuse, Reduce and Recycle. In February of 2013, he was invited by the American Chemical Society as a panelist to brief Congressional staffers on realizing the economic benefits of reusing electronic materials.
Mr. Cade continues to expand his ideas to educate the next generation of electronic users by supporting local green initiatives which provide drop-off locations for used electronics. He is currently working on a solution to provide cost effective upgrades to local schools which will meet their budgetary restrictions, and demonstrate that refurbishing is a much better option than purchasing new equipment. Mr. Cade travels throughout the U.S. and abroad speaking on behalf of the industry and providing education to those interested in understanding the nuances of electronic sustainability. His vast knowledge of reuse – the material recovery of electronic equipment and its impact on society – is given to stimulate thoughts and actions regarding sustainable life cycles. His mission is not only to create and secure jobs, it is to empower people throughout the world with information to access technology in a responsible and sustainable manner.