Cell phones & hard drives for diapers: Madison single mom starts electronic recycling business

Single mother Desarae Bartone of Madison reclaims electronics at her business A.F.A. Electronic Recyclers in her garage to earn income while she is in college. Her daughter Asyria age two keeps her company as she works. Mara Lavitt photo.

MADISON – Desarae Bartone, 20, has created a unique electronic recycling business to help buy diapers and clothing for the babies of single moms – including her own.

It is called AFA Electronic Recyclers of Connecticut – with AFA standing for A Free Alternative. If you are in business or are a homeowner with an unworkable computer, TV set, DVR, CVR, lead battery, radio or virtually anything with a motor including broken lawn mowers, tractors, power equipment or scooters gathering dust in your basement, garage or back room, Bartone and her parents will – at your request - pick up it up and dispose of it.

And they will do it safely, legally and without charge.

Bartone, called Desi by everyone she knows, said she got the idea from her dad, Jeff, and refined it with the help of her mother, Paulette.

“When I got pregnant I had no money and needed help to buy diapers, formula, a crib and clothes for my baby.”

She said Little Miracles, a church-related organization designed to help single shoreline moms, supplied many of her needs “and this is giving me a chance to give something back while helping myself at the same time.” Bartone got involved through her church, St. Margaret Church in Madison.

Bartone’s mother explained that when her daughter became pregnant as a high school senior, her boyfriend’s parents, insisting their son was too young to become a father, wanted her to terminate the pregnancy, but she refused.

That meant she would become a single mom.

“It was tough at first,” Bartone said, “but I did the right thing. I love my daughter, Asyria – who turns 2 next month - more than words can express. She already weighs 35 pounds and is the joy of my life.”

Both are living with her parents while she attends Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, majoring in international affairs with an eye to becoming a teacher and Japanese translator.

“I am the babysitter and chief bottle washer,” Mrs. Bartone said. “I am proud of my daughter’s efforts to start this new business and go to college to make something of herself.”

She explained that when the business first started more than a year ago, AFR stood for All For Asyria. “But we changed it to A Free Alternative because we thought it is more in line with what it does and is catchier.”

Here’s how it works. Bartone or her mother get calls or contact someone with spare electronic items they want to get rid of – which can be a daunting task.

The Bartones drive their van to the home of the person or family (they haven’t serviced any businesses as yet) and after spending time with them explaining what they are all about go into their basement or garage and retrieve all the electronic items their owners want to dispose of. “Asyria comes with us and people always make a big fuss over her,” Bartone said.

“We had to clear what we are doing with the state Department of Environmental and Energy Protection (DEEP),” Mrs. Bartone explained. “Anything with a circuit board or modem or memory has very strict guidelines for proper disposal and AFR is now recognized by the state as an electronic recycler.”

After picking up the items, the Bartones break them down in their garage, separating them into metals.

“Then we take them to a scrap metal company in New Haven that has agreed to work with us (Alderman and Dow),” Bartone said.

Her mother recalled that 500 pounds is the biggest single load they ever took to the scrap yard, for which they got $250.

“It’s a lot of work; the price of metals, even precious ones, has fallen – but we think AFA has a lot of potential,” Mrs. Bartone said. “We have only hauled electronics from about 50 homes so far but hope, by getting the word out, we can expand it sharply and get shoreline businesses involved as well.”

She described her daughter as “petite, but a girl with a very big heart.”

“I hope to help other single moms as I was helped and if I can make some money toward my college education at the same time, that would be wonderful,” Bartone said.

To contact ASA for electronic disposal, call Desarae Bartone, AFA Recyclers of CT, Madison , phone: 203-421- 4187; Pbartone@comcast.net