If Santa was nice enough to bring you a new computer, camera or cell phone for Christmas, your first instinct was probably to toss out your old one.
But what if – instead of throwing away items such as these – you decided to safely and properly recycle them?
While Bryan County doesn’t offer an electronic recycling event for the community, the environmentally healthy concept is becoming more and more popular and Bryan County Schools are already one step ahead of the game.
"Bryan County Schools has been involved with electronic recycling for about two years," said Assistant Director for Administrative Services Allen Clark. "Creative Recycling contacted our office and we were impressed with the information provided. We decided to work with Creative Recycling for disposing of electronic equipment."
Creative Recycling was established in 1994 and has grown to become a well recognized electronic recycling venue for the entire southeastern region. With their help, Clark said all the schools in the district use an approved disposition process for their electronic waste.
"Surplus equipment is approved by the technology department then forwarded to the Board for disposition action. Once the Board approves the disposition of the equipment I contact Creative Recycling for a pick up date," he explained, noting they usually come three to four times a year.
Here’s why it’s important to recycle your old electronics, rather than sending them to the landfill:
"Personal computers and other electronic parts are not harmful in daily use, but are very toxic when disposed of improperly," said Cheryl Wynn, of the Central Savannah River Area Environmental Science Education Cooperative, which hosts an annual public electronics recycle day in Augusta. "Most people don’t realize that elements and compounds in electronic waste can leach into the soil, water and air when electronics are buried or incinerated."
Those elements and compounds include several hazardous materials including lead, toxic PVC burning or incinerating, barium exposure and other chemicals such as chromium, mercury, beryllium and cadmium, which all have ill effects on human health and are dangerous when improperly disposed of, Wynn said.
According to environmental site Earth 911, approximately 1.5 billion pounds of all kinds of e-waste in were thrown out in the U.S. alone in 2006 – and it’s only getting worse.
But the benefits of recycling e-waste don’t just stop with improved wellbeing for people and the environment. Recycling electronic equipment can even be beneficial to a community’s pocketbook.
"At each event we have here in Augusta, we have received more than 33,000 pounds of electronics that did not go to a landfill. Most communities pay for landfill services based on the number of pounds per year, or with each ‘tip’ of the scales. Therefore, recycling saves money," Wynn said.
Monitors, desktop CPUs, LCD-display laptops, notebook computers, CD and CDRW drives, DVD, hard, floppy and zip drives, pagers, PDAs, scanners, printers, fax machines, vacuums, phones and answering machines, banking and medical equipment, cartridges and servers, routers, hubs and remotes can be kept out of local landfills through proper recycling. Televisions can be recycled for a processing charge of about $5 and most stereos will also be accepted.
"Pretty much, if you plug it into your wall, we can usually collect it and recycle it," said James Mann, the co-manager at the Atlanta branch of Creative Recycling.
Things that can’t be recycled include things like refrigerators, electric ovens, washers and dryers and microwave ovens.
So what does it take to start an electronic recycling event?
First, find a reputable recycling center, such as Creative Recycling, suggested Wynn. Mann said he would be happy to help Bryan County host one in April or May.
Then, all you need is a coordinator to be the community’s point person for finding between 10 and 15 volunteers, answering community questions and getting things organized.
The event needs to be well publicized; explaining what it is and what materials will be accepted. The location is also important and should be a site with a large parking area and plenty of room for dropping off the electronics. A small amount of funding will be necessary for creating flyers as well food and beverages for the volunteers – but community organizations might also be willing to sponsor the items.
"For a recycling event, I’ll bring in several trucks that allow me to pull away 30,000-35,000 pounds of electronics," Mann explained. "Volunteers are in charge of taking the electronics out of the cars and helping us get them prepped for transport. We’ll shrink wrap it and load it on the trucks and that’s usually how it runs. From what we get, we remarket some of the items and if we can’t remarket it, it gets shredded into small pieces that are shipped to refineries. It never goes to a landfill."
To find out more or to set up an event, contact Wynn at 706-821-0224 or visit the website at www.CSRAESEC.org; or contact Creative Recycling at 1-800-409-9068 or visit www.crserecycling.com.