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April 17, 2014

Recycling old electronics gives gadgets a new life

LaCrossTribune.com

Now that spring is finally arriving across Wisconsin, many people are emptying basements, cleaning out closets and finding new homes for all the clutter that accumulated over the winter. For most state residents, that house cleaning includes dealing with unused electronics like computers, cell phones or TVs.

While it may be tempting to toss the old cell phones in the trash or haul the outdated TV to the curb, state law bans most electronics from Wisconsin’s landfills and incinerators. Instead, residents can use E-Cycle Wisconsin, a Department of Natural Resources-managed program that by this June will have helped collect more than 150 million pounds of electronics for recycling since 2010.

The program is funded by electronics manufacturers to recycle electronics at more than 450 locations around the state. A 2013 DNR survey estimated that Wisconsin households had 3.3 million unused cell phones, 1.8 million unused computers and 1.7 million unused TVs. Both the total number of devices per household and the proportion that were unused increased substantially between 2010 and 2013.

“We’ve seen a great response to the program, with many state residents taking advantage of convenient drop-off sites to properly recycle old electronics,” said Sarah Murray, E-Cycle Wisconsin coordinator for the DNR. “But our surveys have shown that many people still aren’t sure where to recycle their electronics. This is a good time of year to remind everyone about the recycling opportunities E-Cycle Wisconsin provides.”

In addition to the hundreds of permanent drop-off sites, many communities and organizations schedule special collection events beginning around Earth Day and continuing throughout the summer.

Murray said electronics contain many different materials that should be properly recycled to preserve landfill space, prevent pollution and recover value.

“The steel, aluminum, plastic and precious metals inside electronics are commodities that have real value if properly recycled,” Murray said. “They don’t help our economy if they are in landfills.”

The DNR maintains an up-to-date list of collection sites registered with E-Cycle Wisconsin. Residents can find permanent drop-off sites and upcoming special collection events in their county. Many sites accept electronics for free, though some may charge a small fee for some items. Go to the DNR’s web site and search “Ecycle” for details.