While many people enjoy the benefits of better technology, the number of unwanted computers, televisions and other electronic devices is growing. In Washington state, it makes a pile of about 8,500 tons every year.
For Island Recycling of Freeland, it’s been more than a ton or two of TVs.
Since it started recycling outdated electronics, the Freeland recycler has taken two truckloads of computer and other electronic equipment to a Seattle-based processing center whose personnel break down the equipment to use in manufacturing.
In two trips to Total Reclaim Environmental Services, Island Recycling has delivered 3.5 tons of televisions, 5 tons of electronics and 270 computer monitors, which are counted separately from the tonnage weight.
Jill and Dave Campbell operate and own Island Recycling, a South End tradition, where area residents recycle everything from glass, newspapers, aluminum, scrap metal and cardboard.
Until Island Recycling began recycling electronics, computers, televisions, fax machines and copiers mostly went in the garbage.
Because of the harmful components, though, they aren’t good for landfills. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, computer monitors and older TV picture tubes contain an average of 4 pounds of lead that require special handling after the last picture shows.
Island Recycling began accepting electronics in September 2007.
“We would have done it sooner, but we wanted to find a processor in this country,” said Jill Campbell. “There are many slip-shod operations that send their recycled electronics to foreign countries where they may not get handled properly, and foreign processing takes jobs out of this country.”
“We took our time to find a place in the United States that would process e-waste,” she said.
“We get quite a bit of e-waste now.”
Campbell estimates that as many as 50 to 60 percent of people are recycling TVs now, rather than throwing them in the garbage.
“There hasn’t been the publicity of TV waste that there has been about computers in the landfills,” she said.
In addition to lead, electronics can contain chromium, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, nickel, zinc and brominated flame retardants.
Some items are marketed for reuse with little repair. Others must be refurbished before they can be offered as used electronics.
Most of the e-waste is processed and separated into various raw materials such as plastic, glass, steel, copper and aluminum. These materials become commodities that are used as feedstock in the manufacturing of new products.
In 2005, used or unwanted electronics amounted to about 1.9 million to 2.2 million tons.
Of that, only 345,000 to 379,000 tons were recycled.
Island Recycling was started in 1979 by Dave Campbell. The Campbells have a small recycling yard next to Island County’s Solid Waste site near Coupeville, and they have a contract with Island County to handle all the recycling in the county, except Oak Harbor.
In addition to standard and e-waste recycling, Island Recycling also recycles scrap metal, including old cars. Many metal items can be recycled, Campbell said.
“There are a lot of old washing machines in yards, we could recycle for people,” Campbell said.
Since last July they have been recycling scrap metal, including cars, for free.
“That’s something that not many people know about,” Dave Campbell said.
“Recycling old cars is labor intensive because the tires have to be taken off and all the fluids drained — transmission, brake, power steering, radiator and gas tank — before crushing and baling,” he said
“We are able to do it for free, because metal has gone up in price. Last month we recycled 63 cars,” he said.
South Whidbey is a good place for the business, the couple said.
“Recycling is stronger on the South End,” Dave Campbell said. “Many people are true believers when it comes to recycling.”