Skip to main content

Omaha Magazine

Cross Electronic Recycling: Brenda Banks

Apr 21, 2020 10:11AM ● By Sara Locke

From leaking lead and chemicals to the permanent glass, plastic, and metal waste left behind, electronics may have a life span of 3-5 years, but their environmental impact lives on for centuries. That’s what drives Brenda Banks’ passion for her company’s work. 

As Executive Director of the nonprofit Cross Training Center, Brenda and her team operate Cross Electronic Recycling. Through this innovative work training program, they work to ensure that not only do Omahans know where to take their E-waste, but that a whole generation knows how to fix, restore, and recycle these discarded electronics.

“We accept all items with a cord, battery, or motor. As big as a car and as small as a cellphone, and everything in between, working or not. We take it all and then bring it to our students.”

Cross Electronics has created an apprenticeship program for underserved members of the community, offering them hands-on real-world training. 

“There is a cycle that comes with incarceration, poverty, homelessness, and a lack of education. No matter what caused it, getting out of the cycle requires a marketable skill set and work experience. When a person has a gap in their employment history, or is missing the crucial soft-skills that employment requires, they aren’t going to be able to break the cycle. Nobody hires you until you have work experience. Nobody gives you that work experience without training. We offer that training, teaching leadership skills, co-working, tool application, safety, quality control, and organization in a way that will translate to their next work experience.”

And while these students are learning, they’re improving the health of the world they’re finally getting their footing in. 

The latest statistics show that E-waste comprises 70% of our overall toxic waste, and only 12.5% ever makes its way to recycling centers. The rest, 40 million tons per year, is sent either to landfills, or to incinerators where they release toxic gases.

According to the EPA, recycling 1 million cell phones would reduce the amount of copper waste by 35,000 pounds. It would also result in the potential recovery of an additional 772 pound of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium.

Cross Training Center is a Microsoft authorized refurbisher and boasts a full automotive repair center. This allows Cross to offer deeply reduced priced items like cars and laptops to those who couldn’t otherwise be able to afford them, offering people the proverbial bootstraps they’ve been told to pull themselves up by.

“Being able to create affordable, reliable resources for people and give them an opportunity to rebuild a life and a career for themselves and their families drives us all. It’s been one step at a time, figuring out the right way to do it. But as long as people are willing to try, things can improve. Things can always improve.” 

The work Brenda and the students at Cross Training Center do will reverberate for generations, both in terms of community equity and environmental healing.

5030 N 72nd St.
Omaha, NE 68134