Have you ever wondered what happens to your old television sets, cellphones and printers when you throw them away? Most people do not. Usually it is out of sight, out of mind. The issue that should be brought to the attention of the public is the hazard electronic waste can have on the land. Electronic waste can lead to environmental problems such as polluting the soil and water supply with toxic materials. This is the result of electronics that are not recycled properly. At the rapid rate technology is advancing, it is essential to do whatever is necessary to divert electronics from ending up in landfills.
In July 2013 for the state of Colorado, disposing of electronic wastes such as television sets, computer monitors, printers, fax machines, laptops, and radios became illegal through Senate Bill 12-133 also known as the “Electronic Recycling Jobs Act.” The only options to the public for electronic disposal became to donate old electronics, re-sell working ones or recycle them.
Electronics are made of expensive, useful materials such as copper, aluminum, and engineered plastics, all of which require mass amounts of energy to produce in the first place. Recycling these objects recovers these valuable materials and allows them to be reused for other devices, while also reducing energy demands and greenhouse gas emissions. It saves resources by extracting fewer raw materials, a process which otherwise sends more pollutants into the air. Recycling these materials, instead of extracting more from the land, reduces the amount of pollutants greatly. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance also claims that per ton of waste, recycling sustains ten jobs for every one landfill job. Not only is electronic recycling beneficial to the sustainability of our earth, it is beneficial to our economy as well.
On Saturday, October 12, the high school’s Save Our Society (S.O.S.) club partnered with Woodland Park Panther Recycling and Blue Star Recyclers to hold the ninth community wide electronic recycling event. Locals drove through the Woodland Park Middle School parking lot and dropped off their electronic items, everything from old Gameboys to remote control cars. Televisions had recycling fees of $10, $20, or $30 depending on their size, printers and other desktop electronics had a fee of $5 and computer hard drive destruction was also $5. All other electronics were free of charge, but donations were graciously accepted. Profits went to support the school district’s special education program, as well as the Woodland Park Panther Recycling program.
The S.O.S. Club originally initiated the event to be held yearly in April. Typically, the club tries to hold two events a year, one in October and one around Earth Day in April. This was the first year the Woodland Park Panther Recycling became involved in this event. The group has already held two electronic recycling events prior to this one. Typically at each electronic recycling event, over 6,000 pounds of electronics are collected for responsible recycling.
“I am very passionate about the environment and this event makes me feel like I am part of the solution.” declared Kelly Smith, a member of the Woodland Park Panther Recycling group. “The only thing I wish for is that we reach more and more people each year.”
Saturday’s event ran for four hours, 10am-2pm. During those hours, the volunteers were constantly on their feet helping unload cars, sort electronics into the proper cardboard boxes, load them into the truck to be hauled away and thanking the locals who donated their items. Halfway through the event, the volunteers were pleasantly surprised with a pizza lunch, donated to them by Dominos. The delicious treat did not distract them from helping out though. More cars continued to come and the volunteers managed to take bites in-between. “Overall, I believe it was a good event. This was the first time in a long time that it was held in the fall. When people get used to knowing the times of year it is held, more will turn out. It was successful though, we filled up the whole truck.” commented Kendall Hovel, S.O.S. club co-sponsor. “I estimate that from all our events we have surpassed over 100,000 pounds of collected electronics total from the community since the first one in 2008.”
Electronic recycling is nothing to brush off. Getting informed and helping out are the best ways you can participate in this beneficial project. “I hope the students continue to spread the message of ethical recycling wherever they go in the community.” smiled Smith. When it comes to electronic recycling, ignorance is not bliss.
For more information on the electronic waste disposal ban visit www.colorado.gov/cdphe/ewaste.