What’s Old is New Again

November 12, 2009

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Over time, our electronic devices have gotten flatter, faster and more technologically advanced, allowing us to work, watch or Facebook in ways we never have before. But many of the machines that they’ve replaced – like clunky, antiquated CRT monitors, stacks of CDs and inkjet printers – get shoved into supply closets, storage cabinets and even landfills, creating significant occupational and environmental issues that must be addressed.

“Technology is constantly being updated, and people often replace their devices before their useful life is over,” said Nessa Stone, operations manager with NC State Waste Reduction and Recycling (WRR). “The best option for your old electronics is to donate or reuse them if they’re still functional.

“If donation isn’t an option, be sure your devices are recycled and not trashed, because they’re already banned from disposal at [local] landfills.”

America Recycles Day, a national movement designed to encourage and raise awareness of recycling opportunities, is Sunday, Nov. 15, but NC State is getting an early jump on the festivities with a campus-wide electronics drive and paper shredding event Friday, Nov. 13 at 10 a.m. NC State’s periodic recycling drives have proven successful in the past – more than 31,000 pounds of electronic waste were recycled during the last academic year.

“There are many good reasons to recycle all products, but even more for recycling obsolete or broken electronics,” said Joe Clayton of Synergy Recycling, NC State’s partner for Friday’s collection event. “The obvious one is saving landfill space, but it’s important to note that it takes less energy to recycle metals, plastics and glass than to create new products from virgin materials.

“Additionally, there are hazardous substances associated with obsolete electronics, and we guarantee that they will be handled in an environmentally safe manner.”

According to the EPA, consumer electronics make up about 2% of the solid waste stream – adding up to about 2.5 million tons of electronic equipment that could contain lead, mercury, cadmium and other components that are hazardous to human health or the environment. (A complete list of electronic items that may be recycled Friday can be found here.)

NC State’s recycling efforts don’t begin and end with this weekend’s activities – the university boasts several highly visible programs that have gained notoriety for their organization and overall success.

Pack-N-Go gives NC State students the opportunity to donate and purchase re-usable items at the end of each academic year, with proceeds benefitting student sustainability efforts on campus, while WE Recycle volunteers collect nearly 20 tons of beverage containers each season at Carter-Finley Stadium.

“NC State students have a number of opportunities to actively engage in reducing waste on and off campus,” said Analis Fulghum, education and outreach coordinator with Waste Reduction and Recycling. “These recyclables contain valuable materials that we can put back into the economy, creating new economic development opportunities and conserving natural resources.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Wood & Paper Science has long been active in research involving the recycling of paper, pulp and fibers, while members of the College of Natural Resources staff have encouraged the use of Christmas trees as potential wildlife habitats.

“As an institution of higher education and a land grant university, NC State has a responsibility to teach the values of sustainability,” said David Dean, Outreach & Communications Coordinator with the University Sustainability Office & Office of Energy Management. “By educating tomorrow’s leaders, practicing sustainable development of campus land and encouraging staff to consider the impact of their decisions on the surrounding community, our university strives to incorporate the ideals of a sustainable institution into all aspects of campus life.”

Editor’s Note: Friday’s event will be held in the Reynolds Coliseum Carriageway from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and is free and open to the public.