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Old tech, new life

Electronics recycling event encourages residents to reduce, reuse, recycle

Posted: December 1, 2012 - 9:29pm  |  Updated: December 2, 2012 - 12:24am
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Connie Ferguson, left, and Deric Marcorelle, right, help Cynthia Detrow unload electronics Saturday morning at the Soldotna landfill during an electronics recycling event.  Photo by M. Scott Moon
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Connie Ferguson, left, and Deric Marcorelle, right, help Cynthia Detrow unload electronics Saturday morning at the Soldotna landfill during an electronics recycling event.

Computer monitors, TVs, projectors, phones, laptops, DVD players, LCD screens and scanners were driven into the multipurpose building at the Soldotna landfill in Soldotna, hauled from minivans, trucks and cars and loaded onto pallets.

All the unused electronics were going to Anchorage to be recycled as part of the Electronics Recycling Event on Saturday.

“These are things that can be used and are being used ... and (they) are going back and serving the community,” Jane Stein said.

She had just pulled her minivan into the warehouse and popped her trunk. Volunteers from Re-Group — a local recycling education group holding the event — pulled out her electronics.

“I’m very much a recycler, so I really bring everything out here and dole it out,” the Soldotna resident said.

The Central Kenai Peninsula has been recycling electronics since 2008. Homer holds an event in the spring, and Soldotna holds one in the fall. All the electronics collected Saturday are driven to Anchorage, broken down, shipped south and processed in Seattle before they are distributed across the Lower 48 to be further refined.

“We have a big smart shredder down there, and a majority of that stuff will get dumped through that big smart shredder,” said Total Reclaim Warehouse Manager Jake Sneddon. “That sorts out the plastics, circuitry, non-ferrous metals, metals.”

Total Reclaim is a hub in Anchorage that processes hazardous materials. The most difficult electronics to recycle are TVs and computers, said Sneddon. They have CRT tubes and lead in the glass, and they have to be broken down by hand.

“So they’ll pull the tube out,” he said, “and that gets put through a big glass washer because they have to wash the lead.”

All the glass is tumbled around like cement in a mixer to separate the lead from the CRT glass, he said.

“A lot of the glass will get re-used and made into new TV screens or new computer monitor screens,” Sneddon said. “I’m not sure what the plastic is used for, but it all does get recycled.”

He said this process is nice because it stays in the U.S., avoiding the use of sweat shops in other countries.

Re-Group volunteer Jan Wallace offered another reason to recycle: China.

“At this point in time, China has a hold on the rare earth metal supply,” she said. “So when you look ahead politically at what’s going on population-wise, growth-wise, use-wise of these rare earth metals, it makes sense to (start) recycling the ones we already have in our electronics instead of continually buying new.”

Those disposing of electronics Saturday had to pay a fee, but Ken Schaefer said the $15 to recycle his laptop, computer panel and DVD player is worth it.

“It needs to be recycled,” he said. “It’s not junk; there’s a lot of valuable elements and things that need to be reused.”

Dan Schwartz can be reached at daniel.schwartz@peninsulaclarion.com

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