Little toxic things |

Little toxic things

Eartha Steward
High Country Conservation Center

Our lives are filled with small handy gadgets, from cell phones to iPods. But most of these little electronics contain some type of heavy metal that can be both valuable and toxic. So what is the responsible thing to do after these handy little devices reach their end of life?

Below are some tips on how to safely and ethically recycle these little toxic things in Summit County.

Cell Phones: For those still-working cell phones that are just a few years old, there are many places that appreciate donations for reusable cell phones. All of the town halls take cell phones on behalf of Advocates for Victims of Assault in Summit County. The Summit County Builders Association also takes working cell phones for donation to disaster relief programs.

Really Old Cell Phones: For those really old dinosaurs that you’ve been keeping in your junk drawer for eight years (the “big” models with giant antennas, for example), you can recycle them for free at Office Max in Silverthorne.

iPods, iPhones, and other iThings: Apple retail stores accept old iPods and such for free recycling, and you’ll even receive a 10 percent discount for a replacement. Since we don’t have an Apple retail store, you can also jump on the Apple website and request a free, pre-paid mailing label to ship your iThing back to them. This is truly the best option, because when the manufacturer is in charge of recycling, that manufacturer just might begin to make more recyclable and less toxic iThings. But, for convenience sake, you can also take them to Office Max in Silverthorne for free recycling.

Ink-Jet and Toner Cartridges: Here’s another instance where the manufacturer is the best choice for recycling these items. Many toner and ink cartridges (Dell and Hewlett Packard, for example) come with handy pre-paid shipping labels to send the old cartridges directly back to the manufacturer. Locally, the Balance Sheet takes HP and Brother ink jet cartridges (no toner, please) for recycling. Office Max in Silverthorne offers a special program for HP, Lexmark and Dell ink jet or toner cartridges for their Max Perks customers where you can get $3 back per cartridge (yes, you get the $3 back for recycling in the form of a gift card), up to 10 per week. They’ll also take Cannon Brother, and Epson ink jet and toner cartridges back for free, but without the $3 reward.

Batteries: Because batteries contain all sorts of nasty stuff (like lead and cadmium), you can recycle any type of battery – alkaline, rechargeable NiCad, auto and marine lead acid batteries, and even little lithium watch and camera batteries – free of charge at the Frisco or Breckenridge drop-off centers. This free program is run by Summit County Recycling. The hard-working recyclers really, really appreciate it if you take the time to sort into the appropriate, labeled buckets.

Mercury Thermometers and Switches: These are perhaps the nastiest of the little toxic things. As we know, mercury is a potent neurotoxin and should be handled with great care. You can recycle these mercury containing devices for free at Summit County’s Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) program, located at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park (SCRAP), which is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. However, if you’re bringing up other HHW material (like paint, pesticides, cleaners, etc) be aware that there is a $2 per gallon price and a $10 minimum charge to help cover a portion of the costs.

CFL Bulbs and Fluorescent Tubes: These energy-saving light bulbs contain mercury vapor and should be recycled properly. Bighorn Materials in Silverthorne accepts spent CFL bulbs for recycling for free during regular business hours. For the long tubes, you’ll have to recycle them (50 cents per bulb) at the HHW facility mentioned above.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier and Jen Santry at the High Country Conservation Center. To submit questions or column suggestions, contact them at

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