February 2, 2012
What to do with all that electronic waste?
Cortland County Recycling Center takes in about 6,000 to 7,000 pounds of it a month
Electronic waste has grown steadily in recent decades — and so have efforts to recycle it rather than throw it away.
In Cortland County, about 6,000 to 7,000 pounds of old computers, TVs, cell phones and other gadgets are shipped out every three weeks.
Congress passed a law in 2003 banning electronic waste from landfills.
“We’ve been taking it at the recycling center since 2006,” said Don Chambers, director of the county Highway Department and the recycling center, which is managed by J.M. Murray Center workers. “Any resident of the county can bring electronics here.”
Besides the Recycling Center on South Pendleton Street in Cortland, people can recycle the waste through the manufacturer or stores that sell electronics, or through a range of other programs, such as Cell Phones for Soldiers, which turns used cell phones into free calling minutes for armed forces men and women deployed overseas.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency said that in 2009 electronic waste accounted for 2.4 million tons, about 25 percent of which was recycled. The EPA said only 8 percent of cell phones are recycled.
Electronic waste has to be recycled properly because it contains elements hazardous to the environment, such as lead and cadmium. Millions of tons are shipped to China and India, where environmental standards are lower and where precious metals are removed from the devices.
At the county recycling center, computers, TV sets, DVD players and printers pile up until a tractor-trailer hauls them away to a recycling center in the Ontario County town of Victor every three weeks. Chambers said the county receives “minor revenue” for the waste, such as 3 cents a pound for computers.
Tompkins County residents can use the Finger Lakes ReUse Center in Ithaca, on North Triphammer Road.
Manufacturers accept used devices, among them LG Electronics, Toshiba and Sony.
Best Buy stores accept electronic waste, regardless of where they were purchased.
Goodwill Industries, an international nonprofit, accepts donations of computers — including accessories — and cell phones. Computers are given to the Dell Reconnect program, which accepts any computer brand for recycling. The nearest collection site for Dell Reconnect is in Herkimer.
Cell phones are often traded in when someone buys a new one, but another alternative is to donate them to Cell Phones for Soldiers, a nonprofit begun by a Massachusetts family in 2004.
One collection site in Cortland is the United Presbyterian Church, which takes the phones to the Skaneateles Police Department, which sends them on to Cell Phones for Soldiers.
Two other sites are PakMail at 907 Hanshaw Road, Ithaca, and Southern Cayuga Middle School in Aurora, according to the company’s website.
The company sells the phones to ReCellular, a company that reuses them or recycles them, and the money is used to purchase calling cards for military overseas. Its website says Cell Phones for Soldiers has collected 8.3 million cell phones and has provided American military personnel with 2 million prepaid calling cards for 114 million minutes.
The Presbyterian Church has collected about 100 phones in two years. The program is coordinated for the church by Kitsie Demeree and Sue Rudolph.
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