July 9, 2008

Don’t Toss That Gizmo

By Jeff Postelwait, Tulsa World, Okla.

Jul. 9--You can find it all over the house -- an unused cell phone or PDA in a junk drawer, an old television set in the attic, an obsolete computer sitting in a closet.

It's called electronic waste, and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that as much as 1.9 million tons of it was thrown into landfills in the United States in 2005.

Jeff Nixon, owner of Tulsa-based Earth Computer and Electronics Recycling, said the average household has at least 50 pounds of recyclable e-waste in its closets, attics and other storage areas.

"What we're asking people is please don't throw this stuff in the dump. It's dangerous. It's hazardous waste," Nixon said.

The average desktop computer with a monitor contains dozens of elements and chemical compounds that represent threats to human health and the environment, he said. These can include lead in cathode ray tubes and solder, arsenic in older-model cathode ray tubes, mercury in switches and housing, cobalt and chromium in steel, and cadmium and selenium in circuit boards.

"Cadmium, lead, mercury -- those three things alone are terrible. And plastic, of course, never biodegrades," he said.

Nixon's business takes in e-waste from businesses,

schools, other large donors and individuals before running tests on them to determine how usable the items are.

If an item has enough life left in it, Nixon refurbishes it and sells it at his other business, AABC Computer Sales and Repair.

Nixon said he's been selling computers for longer than he's been recycling them. But dealing with used computers led him to see the potential for reusing and recycling them, as well.

"It sort of naturally progressed into recycling. People started dropping off their old, end-of-life computers. I was able to get a lot of inventory for free, and it didn't wind up in a landfill," he said.

When an old computer comes into Nixon's shop, he runs a diagnostic test on the equipment to find out how useful the machine could be. If it is usable, he refurbishes it and brings it back to working condition, he said.

"We look at it for any large defects first. If it's not in working condition, we plug it in and do a full-on diagnostic. We will see how much life there is in it. If there's more than six months to a year's worth of life to it, then we will rebuild it," he said.

If the machine can't be used, it is packaged together with other e-waste and shipped away to be recycled, he said.

Earth Computer and Electronics Recycling has out-of-state facilities for this purpose in Florida and Connecticut, he said.

"Primarily we take the best of the recyclables and offer them at a discount rate," Nixon said. "If it is truly e-waste, we will package it up and ship it to a responsible e-waste buyer, or it will be dismantled and used for parts."

Most people don't realize that it's not just computers that can be recycled, he said.

"It's just about anything with a circuit board in it," Nixon said.

Of course, some items are more useful than others. Cell phones, for example, are always in demand, he said.

"Those can be repurposed. We donate every cell phone," he said.

More information about Earth Computer and Electronics Recycling is available by calling 835-3882.

Medical equipment Computers Monitors Televisions* Printers Scanners Audio equipment (receivers, radios, turntables, tape recorders, DVD players, amplifiers, etc.) Fax machines Microfiche machines Copiers* Uninterrupted power supplies (UPS) Speakers Telephones Cell phones Keyboards Wiring Hard drives Removable floppy or hard drives Docking stations Circuit boards Stereos (house and auto) CD, DVD cassette players AC adaptors Laptops CB radios Microwaves All home and commercial networking hardware (hubs, switches, routers, servers, short terminals) Duplicators Specialized equipment for assisted living Electrical diagnostic equipment

*Large models may require an additional fee


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