Electronics Recycling Event Is an Overwhelming Success

February 06, 2009

February 5, 2009 — As analog television sets enter the dustbin of history, many locals opted to recycle them.

Residents overwhelmed an electronics recycling drive Saturday held in the parking lot outside Crutchfield's electronics store in the Rio Hill Shopping Center, bringing so many televisions, computers and other electronics that volunteers had to stack them on the ground. More than eight tractor-trailer loads of material have been hauled away and more material is still being processed this week.

"We ran out of space in the trucks and had to pile stuff up in the parking lot," said Lindsey Daniels, sustainability outreach coordinator for the University of Virginia's Facilities Management division, which co-sponsored the event. "We still had people lined up at 3 p.m. and we had to turn people away."

The University partnered with several local business and agencies, including Charlottesville Community Design Center, Crutchfield, the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, Rivanna Solid Waste Authority and Papa John's Pizza, to sponsor the event. Crutchfield usually recycles electronics for a fee, but on Saturday people could recycle for free.

"Charlottesville is a place where people understand recycling, " Daniels said, adding that tonnage figures are not yet available for this year's event, she thinks the area broke its own unofficial record of 34 tons of recycled electronics set in 2006."People here want to do the right thing."

With the pending shift from analog to digital television broadcast signals, Daniels said, many people are replacing their older television sets and this gave them an opportunity to recycle the discards. The drive was timed for after Christmas because the holidays are an active buying time for electronics.

"Actually, there were more computers recycled than televisions," Daniels said, adding that people seemed to have stockpiled equipment waiting for a recycling opportunity. "People were pulling up and taking out three computers and two television sets."

Daniels said there was so much material, the initial trailer trucks to haul the items away were soon packed, forcing volunteers to commandeer parking spaces.

"We filled four or five trucks that day," Daniels said. "We had to hire a guard to watch the stuff at night and volunteers worked all day Sunday. It was definitely a success."

A great benefit of the drive is to keep material out of the landfills. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 26 million television sets, each of which contains about six pounds of toxic material, were discarded in the United States in 2007. The EPA estimated 99 million old TVs also remain stored in people's homes.

The electronics will be processed by AERC Recycling of Richmond, which abides by the E-Stewards' e-waste recycling guidelines, currently the highest standard.

Despite some initial apprehension, Daniels was not surprised by the turnout.

"I thought we would be overwhelmed," she said.

Currently, there are no plans for another electronics recycling drive.

— By Matt Kelly