Turning trash into treasure

Staff WriterJune 27, 2011 

  • Computers

    Cellphones

    Televisions

    Cords & cables

    Printers

    Scanners

    Fax machines

    Telephones

    Radios

  • Here is a list of nonprofits and community recycling centers.

    If you don't see your city or county on this list? Check the website p2pays.org/localgov/ncwaste.html for all Local Government Waste Reduction contacts in the state.

    Nonprofit donation centers

    Kramden Institute, 4915 Prospectus Drive, Suite J, Durham.

    Kramden requests that computer donors also give small cash donations to help cover storage and refurbishing costs. Anyone who donates a computer that can be passed along to a child is eligible for a tax deduction.

    Teaming for Technology, United Way of the Greater Triangle, 2400 Perimeter Park Drive, Suite 150 Morrisville.

    The group refurbishes electronic equipment to distribute to homes, schools and nonprofits across the state.

    Second Chance Computer Foundation, 6320-116 Capital Blvd., Raleigh.

    Municipal recycling centers

    Wake County

    Nearly any electronic item with a cord can be dropped off at either the North Wake Multi-Material Recycling facility (9029 Deponie Drive, Raleigh) or the South Wake Multi-Material Recycling facility (6130 Old Smithfield road, Apex).

    City of Raleigh

    Residents can call Solid Waste Services (919-996-6890) to arrange a free curbside pickup.

    Smaller electronics may be dropped off at the site of what was Eco Lube at 4901 Atlantic Ave, Raleigh.

    City of Cary

    Call Public Works and Utilities Department (919-469-4090) to schedule pickup of computers unsuitable for donation.

    Other electronics can be picked up curbside for a small fee (919-469-4090) or can be dropped off for no charge at 313 N. Dixon Ave.

    Chatham County

    Drop off electronics of any size at the County's Main Waste Management Facility (710 County Landfill Road; 919-542-5516).

    Durham County

    No curbside pickup of these items. Drop off at city of Durham facilities (see below).

    City of Durham

    Curbside collection of TVs 32 inches and larger will be by appointment only. Call 560-1200. TVs smaller than 32 inches, computers and other electronic waste will be accepted at the Waste Disposal and Recycling Center (2115 E. Club Blvd.). Small working appliances can be taken to the Swap Shop at the Recycling Center.

    Johnston County

    Drop off electronics at landfill for recycling (680 County Home Road in Smithfield) or at one of 13 Solid Waste Convenience Sites.

    Orange County

    Residents can drop off their electronics at any of the five Solid Waste Convenience Centers. Find them at www.co.orange.nc.us/ recycling/centers.asp .

The average U.S. household owns 25 consumer electronics products, according to a 2010 survey. It's likely that at least a few of those gadgets are now outdated. But don't even think about tossing them into a dumpster.

Starting Friday, it will be against the law to put electronic equipment, including computers, televisions and printers, in North Carolina landfills.

The state passed the law nearly a year ago, making it one of about 26 states with an electronics recycling law. The majority of those laws have some sort of disposal ban.

Though some computer parts do contain hazardous chemicals like mercury, the main reason for the ban is volume. North Carolina may now have more than 100,000 tons - more than the weight of 2,000 semis - of electronic waste in its landfills, according to the state Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance.

"If we didn't have these laws, all these things would end up in landfills," said Scott Mouw, director of the state recycling program. "Not only would landfills fill up and we would need new ones, but we would also lose the ability to return these valuable materials to our economy. Many materials can be used again, and if we keep them out of the landfills, we don't need to use nearly as much energy making new products."

The brunt of the recycling efforts is falling to municipalities.

There are nearly 500 electronics collection sites in the state; the majority are sponsored by county or city governments and the rest by computer or television companies. Some towns, like Fayetteville and Cary, offer curbside pickup of such items.

Some communities are doubling up on their existing programs in preparation for the ban, paying for the effort with the help of the state's electronics management fund.

Chatham County used its portion this year to purchase special E-Cycle Stations which have been placed in all 12 of its county collection centers to accept electronics weighing less than 50 pounds from residents. According to Teresa Chapman of the Chatham County Waste Management Department, the ban will be relatively cost neutral for the county.

In Wake County, nearly any item with a cord can be dropped off at one of two recycling facilities. Raleigh and Cary residents can also call to arrange free curbside computer pickup or take unwanted appliances to drop-off stations.

The law is likely to affect smaller counties the most. Many do not have extensive recycling programs and will be scrambling to develop them before the July 1 deadline.

"I think that what you'll see are more one-day events as a way to handle materials in less populous counties," said Joe Clayton, director of sales at Synergy Recycling, the state's largest electronics processor.

The Madison-based company, about 100 miles northeast of Raleigh, deconstructs electronics in order to turn the scrap into reusable commodities such as copper and steel that are then sold to recyclers.

Drop-off events tend to be less effective than permanent collection programs, Clayton said.

Clayton said he expects Synergy, which focuses on more populous areas, will see 5 percent to 7 percent more business because of the disposal ban.

The law also places more responsibility on manufacturers and retailers.

All computer manufacturers who sell their products in the state have to pay the state a registration fee of between $10,000 and $15,000, plus an annual renewal of between $2,500 and $15,000 based on the recycling plans they choose to follow. Companies who register for more intensive recycling plans pay less expensive registration fees. The money will be used to spur the development of county recycling programs.

The rules are different for TV manufacturers who pay a smaller registration fee but also have to recycle the equivalent of their market share. For example, if Samsung sells 15 percent of the TVs sold in the state, the companyhas to find a way to recycle that same percentage of TV tonnage recovered in the state. Retailers are prohibited from selling computers or televisions made by manufacturers who have not registered for a recycling program, effective in July 2012.

Every computer manufacturer is already obliged to offer free take-backs of their products, generally through the mail. Electronics retailers like Best Buy and Staples accept materials for recycling even if you didn't purchase them in their stores.

Affluent areas like the Triangle may have more electronic waste than otherareas, but there are a number of nonprofit groups, both locally and nationally, that are working to turn one person's trash into another's treasure.

"We see this as an opportunity to help more people," said Mark Dibner, the founder and chairman of the Kramden Institute, a nonprofit electronics recycling firm in Durham that refurbishes computers and gets them into the hands of underprivileged children throughout the state.

For the past eight years, the organization has accepted more than 8,400 computers generally not more than 4 or 5 years old. Kramden has partnered with Synergy and in July will begin accepting computers even if they are too old or not salvageable, just to provide another place where Triangle residents can drop off their old electronics.

Other local groups like Second Chance Computer Solutions and United Way Triangle's Teaming for Technology provide similar services.

Dibner said that his organization has built up such a large volunteer base that he thinks his more than 4,000 volunteers will be able to handle any increased load in donations.

eden.stiffman@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4669

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