Today’s electronic gadgets move quickly from state-of-the art to underpowered and then on to obsolete. Yesterday’s prized possession is tomorrow’s e-waste.
But that unwanted electronic junk cannot just be tossed into the trash with the banana peels and milk cartons, because sending e-waste to the landfill is against the law in Indiana.
To deal with the glut of unwanted cellphones, MP3 players and old computers clogging junk drawers and garage shelves throughout the community, Bartholomew County’s Solid Waste Management District has started a new program that officials hope can take much of the county’s e-waste and whisk it away — at no cost to the county or its residents.
The Electronic Waste Recycling Program began the day after Christmas and is being offered through a partnership with Green Wave Computer Recycling in Indianapolis, said Heather Siesel, education coordinator for the solid waste district. Residents can drop off unwanted electronics at
Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District, 720 S. Mapleton St.
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays: 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Tuesdays and Thursdays: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Bartholomew County Landfill, 811 E. County Road 450S.
Monday through Saturday: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Bartholomew County Landfill, 811 E. County Road 450S or at the Columbus/Bartholomew Recycling Center at 720 S. Mapleton St., during normal operating hours.
Residents will provide their unwanted electronic junk, and the company provides containers, pallets and a trailer for the electronics. When the trailer is full, the company swaps it out with an empty trailer so the process can start again.
Mike Hiday, co-owner of Green Wave, said the key to the no-cost solution is volume. The company reduces all of those unwanted electronics into component parts, where workers can scavenge the trace amounts of precious metals and other valuable bits.
“By recovering the value of those components, we are able to generate revenue,” Hiday said.
“It is all a volume game. It takes a lot of weight to make it worthwhile. For example, on our public dropoff days, in any given week since we went full time, we have averaged receiving 6,000 pounds of electronics from the public.”
Green Wave grew out of a computer-repair business that Hiday’s brother, Steve Hiday, operated.
Steve Hiday began accumulating computer parts and old machines as he replaced and worked on customers’ units. Soon he suspected there was money hiding in the unwanted parts pile, if they could get their hands on enough e-waste to make it worthwhile.
By dealing with large volumes, the company can recover even the trace amounts of precious metals and make it worthwhile — something impossible for a smaller operation. Although each computer may generate only pennies worth of useful material, those add up.
“That is the misconception. Some people think they are going to get a gold wedding ring out of a computer — not the case,” Mike Hiday said.
In 2009, the company turned to e-waste recycling full time. Green Wave has contracts with five Indiana counties and 14 in western Ohio. The company operates a recycling center in Indianapolis, with dropoff hours every day of the week.
The state e-waste law went into effect in January 2011 prohibiting Indiana households, small businesses and public schools “from disposing of e-waste in any trash that is intended for disposal at a landfill or for disposal by burning or incineration,” according to a fact sheet from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
“Electronics contain heavy metals, including lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium that can be harmful if released into the environment,” according to the IDEM information.
Siesel said the county has been recycling about 2,500 pounds of computer equipment a month, and she expects at least a similar amount of other electronics will be dropped off once the program with Green Wave picks up.
“We are taking pretty much anything with a cord,” Siesel said. “It could be pretty tiny items all the way up to large TVs, excluding consoles and old projection TVs.”
Green Wave cannot take the older model televisions with wooden cabinets, glass or ceramic lamps or items that already have been cannibalized for any valuable parts or rare metals.
The problem with the old televisions is twofold, Hiday said. The wooden parts of the older consoles have no value for recycling and actually cost the company money to dispose of. And the cathode ray tubes contain a lot of lead, which can be handled only by companies equipped to deal with the hazardous waste, another expense for Green Wave.
The only way to dispose of those older televisions locally is to dump them in the landfill, said Jim Murray, director of Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District. Luckily, the number of older model televisions goes down every year, he said.
In general, the solid waste district works to figure out ways to recycle anything that takes up a lot of space — such as cardboard, glass or yard waste — anything with potential value, and anything with hazardous materials, such as e-waste, Murray said.
The district looked at several options for a no-cost, e-waste disposal method before choosing Green Wave, Murray said.
“We waited a couple of years to make sure we have a dependable vendor,” Murray said. “When this first came about a couple of years ago, there were some pretty exorbitant prices being charged to recycle these items.”
When Cummins Inc., held a communitywide recycling day last year, it used Green Wave to get rid of the e-waste and gave the company a glowing recommendation, Murray said.
Mark Slaton, an environmental engineer for Cummins at the Columbus Engine Plant, said the community turned over 40,000 pounds of unwanted electronics for that event.
“That was a tremendous outpouring of stuff, and (Green Wave) did it for nothing,” Slaton said.
The CEP rents computers and takes other efforts to reduce its own e-waste, but even then there is usually a pallet-full of unwanted devices such as copiers or fax machines collected every few months, which are then recycled by Green Wave.
Cummins audited several companies, evaluating their e-waste disposal processes, before choosing Green Wave. Slaton went as far as inspecting the trash coming out of the Green Wave plant, to make sure there were no recyclables being disposed of.
The solid waste district’s e-waste recycling program is expected to continue indefinitely and hopefully will become permanent, Siesel said.
Siesel said anyone with questions about what electronic items the center will take can call before bringing items in at 376-2614.
Items for e-waste recycling
The Bartholomew County Solid Waste Management District will accept any of the following for its new e-waste recycling program:
- Computer CPUs, monitors, laptops, netbooks, tablets, backup power supplies, modems, mice, keyboards, cables, cords,
- Printers, scanners, fax machines, copiers
- Televisions, excluding consoles and projection TVs
- Microwave ovens, toaster ovens, toasters, blenders, mixers, bread makers, food dehydrators, food sealers, food processors, electric skillets, coffee/tea makers
- Vacuum sweepers, irons
- Electric space heaters
- Curling irons, flat irons, hair dryers
- Clocks with a cord
- Corded string trimmers, corded leaf blowers, corded hedge trimmers, corded power tools
- Sound systems, radios, stereos, turntables, CD players, DVD players, receivers, VCRs, games systems
- Surge protectors
- Electric typewriters, calculators
- Battery chargers
- Virtually any small appliance with a cord.