We’re making strides toward zero waste

After one year of operation, the state’s electronics recycling program has proved to be a big success.

Households, small businesses, schools and charities eligible to use the E-Cycle Washington program recycled 38.5 million pounds of televisions, computers and monitors in 2009 at no charge to them. The program is financed by the manufacturers of electronic programs and regulated by the state Department of Ecology.

More than 230 collection sites and services in the state have been busy since day one, responding to a pent-up demand for an environmentally responsible method to dispose of unwanted electronics.

“The E-Cycle Washington program is even more successful than we had hoped,” said Ecology director Ted Sturdevant.

Program officials projected they would collect some 26 million pounds of electronic waste in the first year. That figure was reached in August.

Here in Thurston County, participants in the program turned in 1.5 million pounds of electronic waste, or 3.9 percent of the state total. Only six counties in the state retrieved more election waste than Thurston County.

Statewide, the recycled electronic waste includes 22.3 million pounds of televisions, 12.3 million pounds of monitors and 3.9 million pounds of computers.

Participants in the program can rest assured the electronic waste is handled in a safe and responsible manner, not shipped to a Third World country where the toxic materials in the components could be unleashed on workers and the environment.

Several factors play into the overall success of the program. They include:

 • Consumers want to do the right thing when it comes to disposing of their old televisions, computers and monitors.

These products contain heavy metals and chemicals that make it hard to dispose of them safely. For example, depending on its size, a TV’s cathode ray tube contains anywhere from 4 to 8 pounds of lead. By getting these electronic components into the hands of licensed companies that can properly take them apart, recycle materials and send the hazardous waste to approved disposal sites, the health of the environment and the public improves.

The energy savings from the program are significant. By recycling computers instead of dumping them in landfills, the energy savings is equal to more than 690,000 gallons of gasoline, according to Ecology estimates.

 • The program was designed to be user- friendly. In Thurston County, participants can bring their electronic waste to one of six collection sites. They include the three Goodwill retail stores in Lacey and Olympia, the Goodwill donation stations in Tumwater, and the Thurston County Waste and Recovery Center and Midway Recovery, Inc., in Olympia.

Call in advance to double-check the hours of operation at each location. There have been reports of Goodwill sites occasionally turning down a delivery of electronic waste if the store is short-staffed or lacks the storage space that day to accept more items.

 • Manufacturers of electronic components have stepped up to the challenge, taking responsibility for a cradle-to-grave custody of electronic equipment that contains toxic materials.

Before disposing of unwanted electronic equipment that is still in working order, consider donating it to a local charity or offering it for sale. Working electronics can be sold or given away on www.2good2toss.com, which is Thurston County’s free materials exchange Web site.

The electronics waste recycling program is the latest in a string of improvements in how we manage our waste in South Sound. Think about it: A consumer has a myriad of programs to chose from to reduce the amount of garbage they generate.

Traditional recyclable materials have been expanded to include food waste in recent years. Dart Container Corp. last year added a plastic foam recycling bin outside its Tumwater plant for public use. HazoHouse at the county Waste and Recovery Center on Hogum Bay Road is a popular destination for household hazardous waste.

We’ve come a long ways in our ability to recycle, reuse and reduce waste. Much work remains, but there’s nothing wrong in pausing to celebrate successes on the road to a zero-waste community.