Looking to recycle some old electronics you’ve had lying around? Want an easy, responsible way to unload an old iPod or TV so you never have to worry about it again? Or maybe you’re just interested in learning more about electronic recycling and processing in the Puget Sound area? If any of these sound appealing to you, you may want to participate in Sustainability Services’ e-waste collection event from April 24-26.
This will be the University of Puget Sound’s first e-waste collection event, and a landmark in the evolution of our sustainability program. It’s an excellent opportunity to recycle any of your unwanted electronics, whether they’re new, old, functional, or completely busted. Everyone knows an iPod from six months ago is already pretty much obsolete anyway, so why not do something useful with it? You’ll have a few options for recycling. The first option is to bring them over to our collection station on April 24, 25, or 26. This will be open for three windows of time each day: 7:30-9:30 a.m., 11 a.m.-1 p.m., and 3:30-5:30 p.m. We’ll have signs around campus to point you to the main collection station, which will be located in the facilities complex behind the Fieldhouse. A second option is our satellite collection bins, which will be placed in the lobbies of all residential halls including Union Avenue (“Greek Row”). A third option is to sign a pledge sheet for those electronics that we can’t wrench out of your hands quite yet. We will use these pledge sheets to coordinate with you during move-out and make sure that your electronics get recycled appropriately.
What makes this method better than just throwing them in the garbage or using another e-cycling resource? Aside from the obvious facet, that is, you getting to interact with Puget Sound’s wonderful sustainability crew, the issue goes quite deep. As far as electronic waste processing organizations go, many will be willing to take e-waste off your hands for a low price, but very few are certified to prove they will actually process it in a way that is both efficient and humanistic. Oftentimes, processors only harvest all of the most valuable components of the electronics they receive and ship the remainder to other countries. At this point, the waste still contains recyclable materials and a variety of harmful elements, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. This means when e-waste arrives in third-world countries to be scrapped, the workers who deal with it (as well as the environments around them) are exposed to dangerous materials. Think about it: a toxic, mutated landscape of dead trees and animals, all because you gave your e-waste to the wrong people. Even Ayn Rand couldn’t evoke such a horrifying reality. Beyond environmental and health concerns, many of the materials that could be recycled in the U.S. are disposed of in favor of components that can be sold for a profit. All in all, this makes e-waste processing a careless, unsustainable practice for many uncertified processing facilities. If your electronics end up in a landfill instead, these same toxic elements adversely affect the entire landfill and its surroundings. Climb in a landfill and up-end a bucket of cadmium in it, and chances are you’re gonna get some sour looks, too – it’s not necessarily illegal, but don’t come running to us with your tail between your legs when you get in trouble for dumping your old PC. We tried to help you. Plus, all valuable and non-valuable materials alike go to waste and can take hundreds to thousands of years to decompose. We like to at least THINK Earth is going to be useful for that long, so let’s try and keep it kind of pretty.
Green PC, the company that processes our e-waste, doubles as a computer sales and repair company. Not only do they collect our school’s electronics, they cut out the proverbial middle-man of the recycling process by re-using functional parts of the electronics they receive. Re-used materials mean less waste and less energy expenditure from processing. Green PC also uses a DOD-certified data destruction program to wipe any personal data from your devices, so intricate parts like hard drives can be put right back to use and you don’t even have to worry about strangers reading your old e-mails or text messages. Green PC breaks down and recycles all electronic equipment in accordance to the environmental and safety standards of E-cycle Washington, through which the company is certified. Metal, plastic, and glass are separated and sold for reuse as commodities, and only about 2% of the materials end up in landfills. Among Washington’s recycling companies, Green PC is outstanding in their ability to handle e-waste both responsibly and efficiently, which is why we trust them with our electronics.
Start thinking about what electronics you might want to bring by. Computers, phones, mini-fridges, video game consoles, printers, appliances, and just about anything else that uses electricity is fine to drop off. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have, so feel free to drop by our table in the Wheelock Student Center when you see us, send an e-mail to email@example.com, or visit our website: www.pugetsound.edu/sustainability-services. Happy recycling!
Brady McCowan ’15 is Sustainability Program Field Lead for Sustainability Services, a division of Facilities Services.