According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) electronic waste (e-waste) is growing at three times the rate of household trash. In fact, the EPA has estimated a 5-10 percent increase in global e-waste each year (EPA, 2010). This suggests that e-waste is rapidly becoming a local, national and global problem. The E-waste Institute, established in 2008 through a collaborative partnership between the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU) and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), combats this problem by seeking out opportunities to enhance environmental stewardship.
Urban Regional Extension Agent Phillip Carter, along with other Extension staff, is working to decrease the amount of e-waste fated for our landfills. On Saturday, Oct. 12, Extension partnered with the Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center's Assured Data Destruction to host Dothan, Alabama's second Electronic Waste Recycling Drive. The event was held on the grounds near the Houston County Farm Center. Citizens were allowed to drop off unwanted and broken electronics for recycling and disposal, which included monitors, laptops, cell phones and other electronic devices.
A total of 13 400-pound containers were filled with discarded electronics for an estimated total of 5,200 pounds of e-waste. This included more than 3,000 alkaline batteries, 51 CRT monitors and 46 computers. Holes were drilled in computer hard drives and laptops to ensure they were no longer usable. The e-waste collected will be disassembled and parts separated into different bins. According to Seale Caton, the Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center's coordinator for Assured Data Destruction, the company has partnered with a private recycler for storage and recycling of the e-waste parts.
Overall, the public expressed excitement about the opportunity to dispose of old electronics. Carter, along with the Wiregrass Rehab Center Development Director Cynthia Green, was very pleased with the turnout and plans to host a third event in 2014.
Along with annual e-cycling campaigns, the AAMU/ACES E-waste Institute offers workshops and a small electronics recycling program in partnership with Funding Factory, an organization that helps non-profit organizations to raise funds through recycling efforts. Visit http://www.aces.edu/urban/UESEP/E-Waste.php to learn more about the E-waste Institute.
By Karnita Garner, PhD, Extension Environmental Specialist
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