Summit County hosts first free electronics, pharmaceuticals collection event | SummitDaily.com

Summit County hosts first free electronics, pharmaceuticals collection event

Alli Langley
alangley@summitdaily.com

Few things are more important to Summit County residents and visitors than the water that freezes on the ski slopes, runs through the rivers and flows reliably though the pipes.

In November, Summit's voters approved a property tax increase to create the Safety First Fund, and roughly $630,000 of that fund will go toward improvements to the county's water every year.

Residents and property owners can dispose of their electronics and household hazardous waste, items that can cause serious soil and water contamination if collected with trash that sits at the landfill, for free starting this month.

Aaron Byrne, director of Summit County Resource Allocation Park (SCRAP), near Keystone, said drop-off fees at the county landfill in the past caused many residents to improperly dispose of items or store them indefinitely in their garages.

The new tax money will fund the county's inaugural free event on Saturday, Jan. 31, to collect electronics and pharmaceuticals.

"Keeping electronics and medications out of the landfill is a key strategy for local water quality protection," County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier said.

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The event will take place from 8 a.m. to noon at the Summit Stage Bus Barn, at 222 County Shops Road, next to the County Commons in Frisco.

Accepted electronics items include computers, monitors, printers, phones, audio equipment, TVs, tablets and electronics accessories.

Permissible pharmaceutical items include prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, medication samples, vitamins, prescribed narcotics, medicated lotions and ointments, inhalers, liquid medications in leak-proof containers and unopened transdermal skin patches.

Items that will not be accepted include needles, lancets, thermometers, infectious waste, personal care products, medical marijuana, business waste and aerosol cans.

Byrne stressed that only electronics and pharmaceuticals will be accepted Jan. 31. Residents will have a chance to dispose of household hazardous waste in May.

DATA AND DRUGS

Electronic Recyclers International will disassemble or shred all electronic materials and recycle 100 percent of their components. The company will physically destroy all hard drives and data storage devices to protect against theft of sensitive personal data. The company operates eight facilities across the United States, with the capability of recycling more than 500 million pounds of electronics waste annually.

Colorado law prohibits disposal of electronic devices in landfills. When these products do end up in a landfill, they can leach toxic pollutants into soil and water.

"Smartphones, tablets and other electronics are obviously very popular gifts during the holiday season," Byrne said. "We're excited to provide a convenient, free opportunity for Summit residents to get rid of their old products in an environmentally friendly manner. And by working with a respected electronics recycler, we can ensure that all the materials are ending up in the right place."

Pharmaceuticals can end up in water supplies when they're disposed of in landfills or flushed down toilets.

The Summit County Sheriff's Office will document and destroy all the pharmaceuticals it collects through the Jan. 31 event.

"We're strongly encouraging Summit residents to take a thorough look through their medicine cabinets and pull out anything that's expired or that they're not using anymore," Sheriff John Minor said. "It's important that we keep prescription medications out of the wrong hands and out of our water supplies."

EVOLVING POLLUTANTS

The county's Safety First Fund divides water quality protection initiatives between historical and modern-day sources of pollution. Of the roughly $630,000 raised annually for water quality, the county allocated $300,000 to cleanup of local waterways impaired by mining.

This year that money will go toward restoration of the Swan River, a multiyear project near Tiger Road north of Breckenridge where partner organizations are working to rehabilitate riparian habitat that was destroyed by dredge mining during the early 1900s.

That large project might be the beneficiary of the fund for the next couple years, county officials said.

For the future, the county Open Space Department is creating a priority list of stream segments throughout the county in need of mining cleanup.

Summit County is using the remaining funds, roughly $330,000 a year, to address modern-day water quality threats, including electronics waste, household hazardous waste and pharmaceuticals.

MORE HAZMAT COLLECTIONS

Starting this spring, the county will host collection events twice a year at a central location for free disposal of household hazardous waste — chemicals, paints, stains, liquid fuels — in addition to pharmaceuticals and electronics.

The first of those collection events will be in May, around the same time as annual countywide cleanup events, and the second will be held in the fall.

Before the May collection, SCRAP staff will receive specialized training and develop safety protocols for hazardous waste collection and disposal.

"We expect the volumes of these materials to increase substantially, and we're going to make sure that we handle them with the utmost attention to worker safety and environmental protection," said Thad Noll, assistant county manager. "The last thing we want is a big chemistry experiment going on at the SCRAP."

Following the May collection event, SCRAP will accept household hazardous waste and electronics on an ongoing basis for onsite drop-off during operating hours. SCRAP also will extend its normal operating hours for all services to include Saturday mornings to increase the convenience of dropping off different kinds of waste.

Non-narcotic pharmaceuticals may be disposed of year-round at drop-off bins at City Market stores in Breckenridge and Dillon. Narcotics will be collected at the 9Health Fair in the spring as well as at the biannual county collection events.

For information on the county's collection, disposal and recycling of special waste, or to volunteer at an event, call the High Country Conservation Center at (970) 668-5703 or visit http://www.highcountryconservation.org.