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Recycling old computers

Electronics are all around us – in our pockets and on our desks. Now they’re in our trash.

And while the number of electronic devices on store shelves (specifically personal computers) is increasing, their overall lifespan is decreasing.

The average lifespan of a computer purchased in 2002 is only 2.2 years. An estimated 500 million computers will be obsolete by 2007.



The consequence of increased production and a decreased lifespan of electronic devices is a waste stream unlike that of any other in history. This stream of so-called “e-waste” is growing larger and more complicated each year.

Obsolete computers must be disposed of, dismantled or recycled with great care. Not only are there many kinds of plastic, metal and glass in each computer or TV, but there are also various levels of potentially toxic material.



Many of the personal electronic devices we use every day contain materials hazardous to both human health and the environment – from lead and mercury to arsenic and beryllium.

To complicate matters, there is no cohesive strategy for managing end-of-life electronic devices.

From manufacturers to governments to community recycling programs, everyone is struggling to manage e-waste effectively. Right now, the burden lies with you, the consumer, to pay for and responsibly dispose of personal electronic devices, TVs, computers, cell phones and more.

Fortunately, more and more computer manufacturers are beginning “take-back” programs and absorbing some of the cost of recycling an old computer. Dell recently announced the launch of a recycling program where Dell customers can ship old computers back to the company for recycling.

Change is happening with electronics disposal all over the world as part of a broader movement to shift the burden of disposal costs from communities to manufacturers.

Perhaps someday the U.S. will follow suit, but for now, at least, Summit County residents can recycle electronics at town clean-up days with Summit Recycling Project.

Due to the high cost of recycling this material, electronics collection remains a once-a year event.

Residents can bring electronics to the Frisco drop-off center 8 a.m. to 1 p.m Saturday, May 17, and to the Breckenridge skier parking lots 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., also Saturday, May 17.

Electronics from Silverthorne residents can be dropped off 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 17, behind the Silverthorne Recreation Center.

Businesses with more than 10 units must contact Summit Recycling Project at (970) 668-5703 during the week of May 12 to make an appointment for dropoff.

The cost to recycle is $5 per central processing unit (CPU), $10 per monitor and $15 per TV. All other electronics such as printers, VCRs and keyboards are free to recycle. No console TVs will be accepted this year.

If you don’t like having to pay for disposal, contact your manufacturer or senator and let them know.

Carly Wier is the executive director of Summit Recycling Project.


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