March 31, 2014

150K pounds of electronics collected at Recycle Rama

Written by Kevin Grasha

Hundreds of old televisions and computer monitors were either stacked on pallets or piled into large cardboard boxes. Other boxes were filled with VCRs, microwave ovens, laptops, computer printers, radios and other electronic devices.

All of it — more than 150,000 pounds of electronics was expected to be collected during Saturday’s Recycle Rama event — was destined for a recycling facility in either Canton or Plainfield, Ill.

“All this stuff is going to be torn down, completely disassembled, all the small parts taken out,” said Jerahmy Harkins, of Vintage Tech, an Illinois-based electronics recycling company that participated in the event.

Gold, platinum, silver and copper inside many of the items, Harkins said, goes to a smelter. The metals, he said, are “turned into ingots, and they find their way back into new electronics.”

The plastic is separated according to color and melted down, so it also can be used again.

Electronics were the biggest part of Saturday’s recycling event, held in the sprawling parking lot that surrounds the Ingham County Human Services Building. But numerous other items were being collected, including appliances, bicycles, books, Styrofoam and fluorescent light bulbs.

The event was sponsored by the city of Lansing, but numerous entities collaborate in the event, including private companies like Vintage Tech and Dart Container as well as Michigan State University’s recycling center.

Between 2,500 and 3,000 vehicles pass through every year, said Lori Welch, environmental specialist for the city. The event, which began in 2010, requires the help of as many as 300 volunteers, she said.

“It helps our residents find a place for things they may not be able to put at the curbside — things they want to handle responsibly but don’t know where else to take,” she said.

The line of vehicles waiting to enter the parking lot Saturday at about 1 p.m. stretched several blocks down Cedar Street.

Harkins said it’s important to handle old televisions responsibly because cathode ray tubes contain lead.

If they go to a landfill, “over time, they’re going to break,” Harkins said, “and the lead eventually finds its way down into the water supply.”

Saturday’s event was one of numerous area recycling events scheduled this spring and summer

Welch’s husband, Thomas, a volunteer in charge of one of the electronics recycling lanes, said his motivation is protecting the environment.

“All these people out here working,” he said, “they’re working for the younger generation.”