Sunday, March 28, 2010

Turn. Them. In!

Ever wonder what happens to an old computer or a cell phone when you throw it in the trash and it ends up in a landfill? "Ah," you say. "I know better than to do that!"

GOOD! But not everyone does know better. They don't know that by tossing their cell phone, or beeper, or computer (or the countless other electronics we take for granted--scanners, printers, DVD players, TVs, etc.), they're throwing away recoverable precious metals, plastic housings, screws and wire -- all reusable if recovered -- and, toxic chemicals. We're talking lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, zinc, bromine, chlorine, phthalates, and others, that can pollute our soil, groundwater and underground aquifers, and if released into the atmosphere pollute the air we breathe. These are really bad actors -- the kind of chemicals known to cause or suspected of causing cancer, disrupting the endocrine system, and more.

Take mercury, for example. There is no known "safe" threshold of mercury that can be released to the environment. Really. And once it's out there, it persists, works its way up the food chain back to us, and stays in us once we ingest it (those fish advisories you hear about? For mercury--and lots of other chemicals. Google it. You'll see.)

"Oh," you say. "But everybody recycles their e-waste these days." Sigh. We wish.

According to the Electronics Take Back Coalition (www., whose information was just updated on March 8, 2010, e-waste is still the fasting growing waste stream in the US. Their updated report says that "only 13.6% of the consumer electronic products generated into the municipal waste stream (meaning, that people tossed out) were “recovered” for recycling in 2007." That is, we (as in We, the People of the United States) created 3.01 MILLION tons of e-waste, and recycled only 410,000 tons of it.

"Well, how can I recycle my old cell phones and computers?" There are a number of ways, actually. More and more electronics manufacturers will take back your old cell phones and computers. You may have to pack them up, you may have to pay to send them...that depends on the manufacturer. You can turn them in (and your old rechargeable batteries, too) at places like Home Depot. You can donate them to charity [but do your homework...find out what happens to the units that don't work or can't be used. Do they get recycled in a state and federally approved facility? Do they get shipped overseas where they can be improperly disposed of?]

OR...on April 24th and 25th, during the Hudson Valley 40th Anniversary Earth Day Celebration, you can bring them with you to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, and for $10 per CARLOAD, you can have them recycled by Advanced Recovery, Inc., a NYS and Federally certified electronics recycler, with facilities in Port Jervis and Newark. They are approved by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, and we've worked with them in the past. In fact, in 2009, we collected over 70 TONS of e-waste in just two weekends at the Fairgrounds (Yes, I am very proud of that fact!).

So, if you're coming to the Earth Day Celebration, or you just want to responsibly get rid of your e-waste (we urge you then to stay at the Fairgrounds and come on in to enjoy the Earth Day Celebration!), load up your car, minivan or 4x4 with as much e-waste as you can cram into it, and roll in the front gates of the Fairgrounds. Follow the signs (or look to your left for the big pile of computers and TVs being moved onto pallets) and pull out a ten spot, hand it over and pop your locks. You don't even have to get out of your vehicle: The professional recovery team from Advanced Recovery will remove all the units for you. Then you can drive on over and park your car and come to the Celebration (or--sad face!--you can just go home...).

What can you bring to turn in? Cell phones. Computers. Computer cables, peripherals, printers, scanners, fax machines, TVs, DVD and tape players, stereos -- basically, any old electronic devices. You may NOT turn in appliances that work with electricity, such as stoves and refrigerators (or anything with refrigerants in it, such as air conditioners). If you have any questions about what you can and cannot turn in, call Advanced Recovery, at 845.858-8809, and they'll answer any question you might have.

Oh! Did I mention that April 23rd, the day before the Celebration, is for small- and medium-sized businesses to turn their e-waste in? Businesses must pre-register (state requirement, people...). Dial 845.858-8809 and they'll set you up.

What better weekend to do the right thing with your old electronics? Earth Day Celebration Weekend!! Only at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds. You'll feel great for doing it, and your drawers, basement, attic and garage will breathe a sigh of relief! And so will I.

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