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Requirements for electronics recycling program clarified for Chatham collection centers

Posted Monday, March 12, 2012

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Pittsboro, NC - The Chatham County Solid Waste and Recycling Division has seen rapid growth in its new Electronics Recycling program, initiated when North Carolina banned the disposal of television and computer equipment in landfills last July. However, staff have identified safety and logistical problems that require further clarification of limits on what can be accepted at the 12 collection centers located throughout the county. The changes are effective immediately.

The restrictions currently state that any electronics weighing over 50 pounds will not be accepted at the collection centers, but items dropped off are often much heavier than 50 pounds. This is a major problem for the larger sizes of older style televisions and computer monitors using cathode ray tubes (CRT).

Dan LaMontagne, Chatham’s environmental quality director, explains, “An old 27-inch CRT television can weigh 70 pounds. They are very heavy, bulky, and labor-intensive to handle, so we have to put a limit on what we can accept and safely manage at our collection centers. We must prevent injury to staff and avoid slowdowns in operations. We are also limited in storage space and capacity due to the wide range of recycling programs we offer.”

This means that in addition to the 50-pound limit, the collection centers will not accept CRT televisions or computer monitors larger than 25 inches, measured diagonally across the screen. The centers also will not accept floor model televisions or console units. Collection Center staff will have a measuring stick or tape, but residents are encouraged to measure their items before making the trip to their collection centers. As always, a solid waste decal is required to be shown each time residents use the Collection Centers.

The larger, heavier items can be dropped off at the division’s main facility at 720 County Landfill Road west of Pittsboro, Monday through Friday, from 7 am to 4 pm at no cost and no decal required, but residents must sign in at the office first. Residents also can bring electronics during the Household Hazardous Waste events held in the same location, March through November, on the third Saturday, from 9 am to 3 pm. In all cases, residents must be prepared to unload items themselves.

“Many rural counties our size offer just one annual drop-off event to collect all electronics at one time, so we’re fortunate to offer so many options to recycle electronics year round,” says LaMontagne. “But, for us to avoid adding staff and to continue the program at all 12 collection centers, we need everyone’s cooperation and adherence to the guidelines.”

Residents are also reminded not to deliberately break any electronics because sharp plastic and glass edges pose a serious safety hazard for other residents using the centers and employees who must handle the items by hand.

In just two years, the county’s electronics recycling program has grown rapidly. In the 2009-10 budget year, the county recycled 38,015 pounds of electronics, but only offered the option of recycling televisions or computer monitors less than 20 inches in the Swap Shops at four Collection Centers. At that time, residents could bring electronics of any size to the Solid Waste & Recycling Division’s main facility.

In FY 2010-11, the county moved electronics collection from the Swap Shops to cages, called E-Cycle Stations, but still limited to the same four centers. During that year, the county received 86,853 pounds of electronics, an increase of 128 percent.

In preparation for the landfill ban last July, the county added more items to the list of what could be accepted and expanded E-Cycle Stations to all 12 collection centers. From July to December 2011, the county recycled 196,104 pounds of electronics, representing a 126 percent jump from the previous year in half the amount of time.

Teresa Chapman, Chatham’s waste reduction coordinator, says, “This tremendous figure means that 196,104 pounds of electronics were returned to the economy instead of buried in a landfill, saving nearly $6,000 in waste disposal tipping fees. Despite the challenges, participation in the electronics recycling program has been fantastic and we really appreciate the efforts made by Chatham residents.”

Chapman said, “We also encourage everyone to think creatively about ways to extend the valuable life of electronics by making repairs, donating items, and buying used items when possible.”

For more information on the Chatham County Electronics Recycling Program, visit www.chathamnc.org/electronics or call (919) 542-5516.

 
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