Who could have imagined that the humongous screen TV that was the envy of your neighbors just a few years ago, today is at the Soldotna landfill waiting to be recycled along with dozens of other TV's that work but no one can find a remote for anymore. Reflecting on the surge of electronics and technology the last few decades many are referring to the "Story of Electronics" as the "Design for the dump" mentality. Movies are being made, books authored and media created to increase awareness of the global threat such accumulations are posing to communities when getting rid of obsolete electronics creates mountains of e-waste.
Locally, due to the volunteer efforts of Re-Group, founded on the Kenai Peninsula over 20 years ago, an Electronic Recycling Event is held twice annually at the Central Peninsula land fill in Soldotna. "Electronic recycling is very important because of all the heavy metals and toxic wastes that are in these products. There are many valuable metals such as copper, gold, and silver in many of these items, which may be operable, but outdated. As we all know new technology comes along and a business or family wants to upgrade their technology and the old product has to be disposed of and that's what we are here to help with," said Deric Marcorelle, formerly with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and a Re-Group volunteer.
According to Marcorelle all of the electronic devices were broken down by components, "All of the copper wiring is saved as a valuable commodity, but the TV sets have to be handled one way because there is a lot of lead components in a television that have to be removed, and all these type of products have different types of materials that may be valuable and will be mined by Total Reclaim in Anchorage who come down each year to assist us," he said. Wesley Matthews a senior at Skyview High School gave up his Saturday to help unload trucks filled with electronics and clip copper wires, "I just wanted to help out he said, it feels good to know you're doing something important," he said. "It's fun to mess with the technology and see all the hook ups," added Wesley's school mate Bud Sparks, a Skyview junior, who also volunteered for the day.
While salvaging may have been tempting it wasn't allowed, "People bring in these components with the mind set that they will be recycled and not end up in the land fill or someone's garage, so that's what this event is for," explained Marcorelle. The annual recycling event has become so popular it is now held twice a year even though the volume has decreased, "Many of the components are now a quarter of the size they were so it's natural the volume is being reduced, we have here about 3,000 lbs today and that's about half what we expected," he said.
As global awareness and pressure increases manufacturers are being encouraged to produce longer lasting and more easily recyclable products. Locally Re-Group is the only recycling organization working to promote recycling on the Kenai Peninsula, to join or find out more about Re-Group activities contact Jan at 262-5098.
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