Island County adds to state's impressive collection of unwanted electronics

Island County residents contributed nearly a half-million pounds of unwanted electronics as part of the "E-Cycle Washington" program last year, state officials said this week.

Statewide, the total amount of electronic material sent to the E-Cycle program last year was more than 39.4 million tons — roughly the weight of five Space Needles.

Officials with the state Department of Ecology said last year's tally was a million pounds heavier than the amount of TVs, computers and monitors collected during the program's first year. Over two years, the E-Cycle Washington program has brought in 78 million pounds of unwanted electronics.

Discarded televisions made up the bulk — 63.3 percent — of last year's drop-offs in the free program. Monitors were second at 27.2 percent, followed by computers, at 9.5 percent.

The massive amount of electronics that's being collected by the program isn't entirely surprising, however.

Approximately 64 million flat-screen TVs were purchased in the U.S. in the last two years. Computers and monitors have a much shorter lifespan than TVs, and consumers were updating and replacing those electronics even faster than their TVs, according to Ecology officials.

So why does the weight of so many TVs showing up in the E-Cycle program far outpace the tonnage of computer gear? Miles Kuntz of Ecology's Waste 2 Resources Program said there may be several reasons.

Kuntz said most households usually have more TVs than computers, and when TVs go on the fritz or people buy a newer model, the old TV typically found its way to the garage, or somewhere else, because unwanted TVs have been harder, and more expensive, to get rid of.

With the E-Cycle program providing a free recycling option, Kuntz said, those stored TVs are coming out in greater numbers.

The main reason, though, is the size and weight of the TVs. On average, they are larger and weigh more than computers or monitors, so the pounds add up quicker.

Last year in Island County, the E-Cycle program brought in an estimated 493,804 pounds of computers, monitors and TVs. The county placed 13th out of 39 counties in Washington in the amount of material recycled. King County, followed by Snohomish and Pierce counties, topped the list.

On South Whidbey, Island Recycling in Freeland participates in the "e-cycling" of electronics equipment.

Officials with the program praised those who have been participating in the E-Cycle effort.

"Electronics manufacturers have done a great job of providing Washington's citizens with a no-charge recycling option for electronics. And the public has responded, proving once again that our state's recycling ethic is one of the best in the country," said Ted Sturdevant, director of the Department of Ecology.

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