Electronic happy hour every Thursday at Frisco drop-off
June 29, 2006
“What can I do with old computer equipment and electronics in Summit County?”
In Summit County, the best option is to recycle your used computers and electronics Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon at the Frisco drop-off center. Keep in mind however that there are distinctions among electronics. And like many things that are good for our planet these days ” the service is not always free ($5 per CPU/laptop, $10 per monitor, $15 per TV).
Computers, monitors and TVs are different than other electronics. They contain hazardous materials like lead, mercury, cadmium and zinc and cannot be thrown in with regular trash. In fact, computer monitors and TVs are the largest contributors of lead to our landfills ” beating out car batteries which now have a 95 percent recycling rate.
Because of the toxic materials in computers and TVs, they have to be recycled in specialized hazardous waste facilities. Fortunately, our friends at the Summit County Recycling Program ensure that Summit County’s computer recyclers are located in the U.S. and follow strict human and environmental health regulations.
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So you can rest assured that we are not exporting our toxic trash from Summit County to China for children to sort through in open dumps.
I hear that socially conscious eco-warrior in you screaming, “But what about donating my old computer to a child in need or a local school?” That’s a great option indeed, but the truth is that the reuse market for computers is so narrow that most computers don’t make the cut. And new ones get cheaper each year. From high-speeds to CD burners to media cards, most kids (and adults) want a computer that’s going to be compatible with their lifestyle and technological needs ” even if it’s free.
Local schools, nonprofits and thrift stores generally don’t need donated computers.
In the end, they may have to pay for it to be recycled and it may cost more to upgrade or repair than it’s worth. So, while the thought of donating is a good one, the general rule of thumb is that it’s better off to recycle it. Local folks needing specific computers can always call us or post a note on Summit Freecycle to be matched with a donor.
A quick tip: If you have secret files, personal information or other data not suitable for anyone else’s eyes, you can always take a hammer and smash the hard drive to ensure that it goes straight to the recycling pile at the sorting center. If you don’t know what your hard drive looks like, just ask one of the recycling staff when you drop off your computer for recycling.
So that takes care of computers and TVs, but what about all the other small electronic devices in our homes that go out of date faster than the snow melts in May? This one’s relatively easy. You can recycle anything with a cord that’s the size of a microwave or smaller (VCRs, iPods, printers, keyboards, phones, toasters, etc.) any time, for free, in the scrap metal bin at the Frisco Recycling Drop-off Center.
Large appliances must be recycled at the Summit County landfill for $10 each.
These “other” electronics do not have the toxic materials found in computers and TVs and are sent to a scrap metal recycler in Denver where the material is ground and sorted to salvage materials like steel and copper wire.
As for those heavy computer back-up battery units and tiny batteries that make our iPods tick ” the Frisco and Breckenridge drop-off centers each have a small hut for recycling any type of battery from lithium ion to alkaline to lead acid car batteries for free.
In a perfect world, we’d be able to upgrade, rebuild and reuse an older computer for less than it costs to buy a new one ” or at least return it to the manufacturer in an easy system where they could dismantle it and reuse its parts. But, alas, we’re not in that zero-waste dream world where things are designed to be reused, rebuilt, repaired or recycled from the start ” yet.
So, for now, keep that techno trash out of our landfills and toxic materials out of our waterways by recycling your electronics at the designated time at the Frisco drop-off center.
Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier, Holly Loff, and Beth Orstad, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you’re wearing stylie shoes.
Submit questions to Eartha to firstname.lastname@example.org with Ask Eartha as the subject or to High Country Conservation Center, PO Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.