Electronics recycling in Alaska begins emptying basements and attics

In mid September, the city and borough of Juneau, Alaska held a large, free community electronics recycling drive.

Public works director Kirk Duncan said residents streamed steadily through the dropoff site, bringing in electronics they’d had stockpiled for years and sometimes decades.

“We saw some stuff that I hadn’t seen in a long time,” Duncan told KTOO Public Radio 104.3. “Some original Apple computers, the one piece computers, then some huge TVs – just all kinds of different stuff.”

In all, the trial event collected 15 tons of material.

What results like this prove is something that electronics recyclers have known for a long time – American stockpile obsolete electronics because they don’t know what to do with them. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 2009, an estimated five million short tons of products were in storage, with CRTs (monitors & TVs) being stored at the highest rates.

These events target that crucial residential sector – consumers, according to the International Data Corporation, comprise most of the new electronics industry but only 25% of the electronics recycling industry.

We have a general idea that throwing out old electronics is a bad idea. Perhaps it’s an acknowledgement that such items don’t belong in landfills, or the mentality that many products, once so expensive, must retain some value when they reach the end of usefulness.  Still other people don’t know how to handle old electronics, which doesn’t fit in the trash can and won’t be picked up by sanitation workers if it’s left at the curb.

And so the old TV goes into the attic or the basement, where it sits for a while. Sometimes it’s joined by an old computer monitor or an old computer tower, and then, after a while, another TV set.

Finally, after a while, the average American household has developed a sort of private e-scrap stockpile, gathering dust and taking up space. While many retailers operate voluntary recycling drop-off programs, they often must charge for data removal or for CRTs. So, when a free government-sponsored collection is announced, it’s understandable why all of these electronics start coming out of the wood works.

For more on electronics recycling near you, please go to ISRI.org/certifyme or R2Solutions.org

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