Print Cottonwood collects e-waste for cash
Written by Greg Ruland   
Wednesday, 19 May 2010 01:08

Dangerous junk piled up at the Cottonwood public works yard was money in the bank for an electronics recycling firm following an event sponsored by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

Verde Valley residents turned in more than 12,000 pounds of unwanted televisions, computer equipment, batteries, chargers, cell phones, DVD players, printers, appliances, fax machines, stereos, cables and cords May 8.

Earl Campbell, owner of an electronic waste company, said the event was one of the best organized he’s attended since he began working with ADEQ to clean up Arizona’s electronic waste.

“Cottonwood did a very nice job,” Campbell said. “The city made it easy for people to attend. There were no traffic problems and everything went very smoothly.”

“I would have no problem going back on a yearly basis,” he said.

Cottonwood, Clarkdale, UniSource Energy and Stewards of Public Lands helped organize the collection day to help save space at the Yavapai County landfill and protect the environment from toxic materials contained in electronic equipment.

Diane_Joens“Illegal dumping of electronics waste is a serious problem in the Verde Valley,” Cottonwood Mayor Diane Joens said. “This free event allowed our residents to do the right thing and dispose of their old TVs and computers and other electronics in a responsible manner.”

Electronic devices are a complex mixture of several hundred materials. A mobile phone, for example, contains 500 to 1,000 components. Many of these contain toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and beryllium, and hazardous chemicals, Campbell said.

Throwing the equipment into the landfill increases the risk the materials will leach into the environment.

“These things should be recycled properly and properly handled so these materials don’t go back into the ground,” Campbell said.

Though potentially dangerous, electronics also contain trace amounts of valuable precious metals that Campbell’s firm harvests and sells, usually for a profit.

A computer motherboard, for example, usually contains gold, palladium and silver, Campbell  said.

With gold selling at more than $1,000 an ounce, recovering trace amounts of the metal from the more than 12,000 pounds of waste collected should more than cover the cost of the crew and equipment Campbell brought to Cottonwood for the event, which isn’t always so, Campbell said.

An electronics recycling event in Nogales recently ended up costing Campbell because very little recyclable material was recovered, he said.

Televisions, for example, usually cost more to recycle than they yield in valuable metals, he said. Nevertheless, if the sets are not recycled properly, glass from the screens contain lead which will leach out and contaminate the ground.

“People don’t know,” Campbell said. “You can’t just throw this stuff out.”