Effort to collect electronics for recycling sees good turnout
DANVILLE – Deb Martin expected that a recycling collection held over the weekend, would draw a fair number of people eager to dispose of their old computers, televisions and other electronics in an environmentally friendly way.
But she didn't expect to see cars and trucks filling the parking lot of the Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. building and spilling into Voorhees Street when the event began at 9 a.m. Friday.
"All kinds of businesses and schools ... are bringing them in by the truckload," said Martin, who volunteered at the event. "It's mostly been computers, monitors, towers, keyboards and some TVs. And there's been an occasional typewriter ... It's going so well (that) we're hoping we can make this a yearly thing."
Martin is vice president of the Phi Omega Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society at Danville Area Community College.
The organization teamed up with Keep Vermilion County Beautiful to apply for "Think Green" grants from Waste Management Inc. and Keep America Beautiful. The groups won one of 12 grants that were awarded, and used their $10,000 in winnings to host the collection, said Lynn Wolgamot, the county's recycling coordinator and Keep Vermilion County Beautiful's executive director.
"This is e-cycling," Wolgamot said. "It's the next big issue in recycling."
Ken Mathis said this is the fourth time his firm, Mack's Twin City Recycling of Urbana, has done an electronics collection in this area.
"I think this is probably the biggest one yet," he said, adding that could be because he didn't do one last year.
By early Friday afternoon, an hour or so before the collection was to shut down for the day, he estimated there was enough used equipment stacked in the Smurfit-Stone warehouse to fill four or five tractor trailers.
As representatives from businesses large and small and school districts as well as individuals pulled up, volunteers from Phi Theta Kappa, the Vermilion County Health Department and Peer Court Inc. unloaded computers, printers, scanners, and fax and copy machines, stacked similar items on pallets and secured them to be hauled away.
Mathis said his company will break the computers, TVs and other electronics down to the raw materials. Then he will take parts and make fully rebuilt computers or sell the circuit boards, hard drives, wire, power supplies and other parts.
"Right now we have a lot of desktop monitors because people are changing to flat-screens," Mathis said. "I'm guessing that 90 percent will be good. Four or five years ago, only 40 percent of the monitors were usable."
From the TVs, Mathis will harvest usable parts, including gold, which is now worth about $640 an ounce.
Mathis said legally, Illinois landfills cannot take electronics. But that doesn't keep some people from trying to throw them away.
"I don't think there's been a lot of education in the public," he said.
Danville resident Nora Price said while she wasn't aware of any restrictions, she tries to recycle everything.
"I just think it's very important for the planet," said Price, who dropped off her old computer monitor.