Blue Star Recyclers received a social enterprise loan from the Beanstalk Foundation to expand its electronics recycling capabilities, just as a new law makes it illegal to dispose of electronic waste in Colorado landfills.
The $53,000 loan will fund a new program director position that will allow Blue Star Recyclers to extend its reach beyond Colorado Springs and the Front Range. The nonprofit company has also established the vocational electronics recycling network as a way to provide new communities with the tools to start e-waste recycling programs and create jobs for people with disabilities. The new sites include Salida/Buena Vista, Aurora, Vail, Aspen and Limon/Lincoln City.
The money has also been used to help Blue Star achieve e-Stewards, R2 and ISO 14001 certifications, which help distinguish the organization as a recycling leader. The certifications allow Blue Star to market to government accounts and large businesses.
The Beanstalk Foundation is a Denver-based nonprofit that is committed to growing nonprofits in Colorado. It created the social enterprise loan fund and Blue Star was the first company to receive the loan. The nonprofit-to-nonprofit loan fund provides Colorado charities with the capital to grow and become sustainable.
Once that goal is reached, the intention is for the money to be recycled and paid forward to help the next cause.
Blue Star was chosen for the loan program because it creates work for people with developmental disabilities. Blue Star employs more than 40 people who have helped recycle more than 1,800 tons of e-waste since 2010.
“We knew we had a great model, but in order to expand Blue Star Recyclers’ social enterprise model, we needed to hire a new program director, and unfortunately getting funding to pay a salary is a big hurdle for nonprofits to cross,” said Bill Morris, CEO of Blue Star Recyclers. “We are fortunate the Beanstalk Foundation recognizes the value in our unique approach and had both the vision and the expertise to craft a first-of-its-kind loan that will make it possible for use to maintain our triple bottom line and grow as a respectable business.”
Beanstalk was founded by Ted Stolberg, a former private equity manager. He started the new lending concept after realizing that grant-making organizations, commercial banks and individual donors typically turn down nonprofit requests for salaries and other assets need to expand. The foundation spent several months designing the fund and is one of only a handful of foundations loaning to other nonprofits.
“Bringing Colorado nonprofit leaders and their organizations to sustainability, especially those like Blue Star Recyclers, requires that we rethink the way we work with and fund nonprofits,” Stolberg said. “Donations and grants alone would have kept Blue Star Recyclers’ model running at its current capacity, but it would not have had the capacity to grow.”