CADILLAC — If you received some new electronic gear for Christmas you may be wondering how to dispose of the old gear.
In the recycling world, used or discarded electronics are known as E-scrap. Computers, cell phones, televisions and Christmas lights all fall under the E-scrap umbrella, but their disposal is a bit more complicated than a quick dump into your curbside bin.
President and General Manager of Bay Area Recycling for Charities Andy Gale said E-scrap should be handled with special care, for the sake of environmental health and natural resource preservation.
When E-scrap is recycled properly, the “rare earth materials” they contain have the potential to be re-used in the production of new electronics.
Gale said the result is a delayed need to harvest those materials which aren’t naturally regenerated. He added that E-scrap can contain chemicals that would be harmful to the environment if released through improper disposal.
“There’s lots of toxic things that we don’t want to go to landfill, because they’ll decompose, and they’ll wind up leaking out, eventually, out of the landfill and put pressures on our water systems,” he said.
Electronics Recycling Specialist for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, Steven Noble, said people often don’t know what they’re supposed to do with their retired electronics. And their lack of direction is usually what leads to those items ending up in a landfill or dumped onto state and federal land.
Most Michigan cities and counties host an annual hazardous waste collection event that gives community members the chance to rid themselves of their E-scrap without the burden of cost. But there are several local recycling plants that accept some forms of E-scrap in the interim.
Ms. Green Shredding and Recycling Services offers waste pick-up and drop-off for Wexford, northern Osceola and southern Missaukee counties. They accept all metals and electronics, except for TVs and computer monitors. They also accept Christmas lights and household appliances.
PADNOS Recycling of Cadillac will purchase and recycle any E-scrap material. The Missaukee County Recycling Center will accept metals and electronics.
Noble said E-scrap and other forms of household waste tend to build up after the holidays, because people are often gifted new tech and appliances. They might prefer to hold onto their old items until hazardous waste disposal events kick off in the summer, but if they’re low on space, he said there’s almost always a way to unload waste through the year; it just takes a bit of research.
Although BARC does not directly service the Cadillac area for E-scrap recycling, Gale said their 26-foot box truck is able to pick-up at local waste collection events within a 100-mile radius.
Since 2008, the state of Michigan has upheld a producer responsibility law, which Noble said requires that companies offer end-of-life management for their electronic products. However, Noble said Michigan manufacturers have continued to find ways to skirt around the law, so it’s his recommendation that people go local with their E-scrap disposal to ensure it goes through the proper recycling process.