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Don't kill your television - recycle it!

Groups team up to help islanders recycle computers, TVs and other electronics

Chris Miller had no idea what he was getting into when he volunteered to recycle his office’s collection of outdated computer equipment.

The tidy pile turned into a sprawling heap. The heap turned into a car load; then a truck load – and finally an island-wide event.

“It just kept growing,” said Miller, a real estate agent at Deschamps Realty & Associates on Bainbridge Island. “We had a pickup ready but then we had too much for that when people started bringing stuff from home. And then some people were saying ‘Oh, by the way, my neighbor has this or that.’ I thought, ‘Holy mackerel! There’s a real high demand for this.’”

Miller decided to widen the roundup, roping in his co-workers, high school students and other volunteers to gather unwanted cell phones, VCRs, stereos, televisions, microwaves and computer equipment this Saturday at Ace Hardware’s parking lot. Seattle-based Total Reclaim Environmental Services will dispose of the items at electronic waste recycling centers.

According to the state Department of Ecology, Washington residents toss out more than a million TVs and computer monitors each year. Cast-off cell phones, printers, keyboards, fax machines, laptops and other electronic products are also on the rise, contributing to the 2 million tons of “e-junk” tossed out each year in the United States.

“A lot of this stuff – the monitors, computers, printers, batteries – has toxic materials,” Miller said. “We felt like we had to dispose of it properly.”

An average TV contains five to eight pounds of lead, which can seep into groundwater. Other electronic devices contain environmental poisons such as mercury, cadmium, chromium, barium and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, commonly refereed to as PBDEs.

Electronic components are no longer accepted for landfill disposal at Kitsap County facilities. The Bainbridge Island Recycling & Garbage Facility off of Vincent Road does not accept TVs and computer monitors. Many island residents must drive to South Kitsap to recycle those items.

“I was going to have to take this stuff down near the Bremerton airport or Gig Harbor,” Miller said. “That’s pretty inconvenient and, with the cost of gas, I thought there was a better way to do it.”

The per-item fees for recycling electronic items at the Saturday event are on par with South Kitsap recycling facilities, Miller said. Cell phones and desktop printers cost $5, microwaves and computer monitors are $10, TVs range between $25 and $30.

Total Reclaim agreed to donate a portion of the collection fees to Bainbridge High School’s Earth Service Corps, which will help man the collection center.

“It’s a great thing to have the option of recycling computers, which are incredibly toxic,” said Earth Service Corps member Emma White, who helped promote the event with flyers and posters.

“We just want to help,” added corps member Jonathan Hallet. “That’s what the Earth Service Corps is for.”

Sustainable Bainbridge is also chipping in, offering up volunteer labor and prizes for a drawing.

“I’m excited to see these groups help take the bull by the horns,” said Miller.

Now Miller is waiting to see how many islanders dust off and drop off their old, forgotten electronics. If the environmental incentives aren’t enough, Miller urges would-be recyclers to consider the more ethereal perks.

“It’s a way to put our Karma in the right direction,” he said.

Tech dreck

The Recycle It! electronics collection event is scheduled for Saturday at the Ace hardware store parking lot near the intersection of High School Road and State Route 305. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. See www.bainbridgeneighbors.com for a full price list and other information.

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