Saturday, May 09, 2009
Dane County holds its first free recycling drop off for obsolete and toxic household electronics
What if they had a big, free recycling drop off for all those old computers, analog TVs and other household electronics and everybody came? You'd have a big traffic jam -- and also keep an estimated 250 tons of toxic trash (some of it ours) out of the Dane County Landfill. Seeing it all piled up in the parking lot of the Alliant Center Saturday was a striking reminder of how much electronic trash our consumer economy generates.
Same thing when we cleaned the accumulated gear out of the house the day before and loaded up the Subaru wagon we borrowed from M, who also helped load. We set out with our car full of tributes to the forgotten glories of analog television and VHS video Saturday morning. By approaching the Alliant Center from Olin Ave. rather than the Beltline, we avoided the massive traffic tangle caused by thousands of Dane County residents coming to unload their stuff without having to pay the usual $10 recycling fee for TVs and computers. We were in a long line of cars that took about a half hour to snake slowly through the back roads of the Alliant Center. But when it came time for unloading, a couple of volunteers emptied the entire car that took so much time and effort to load in less than two minutes, and we were on our way.
It was quite an operation. Not perfect, but pretty smooth for what they were trying to do (traffic control could have been better organized, but they didn't expect the turnout they got). You'll find more pictures here of the assembly-line operation in which the two lines of incoming cars split into multiple unloading lanes, in which volunteers quickly emptied the cars and trucks onto the pavement of the parking lot, where the junk was palletized and loaded into semis for shipment to the Janesville reprocessing plant.
Fees for recycling individual TVs and computers just encourage people to pile them up in their basements and garages and hope they go away -- and for the less scrupulous to dump them in the countryside. An event like this is like a overdue library book amnesty. It brings the contraband out of hiding. Be nice if we could hold some more of these events on a regular basis (perhaps in a more decentralized fashion) until people get rid of the backlog in their homes.
Once we get the basements cleaned out, we shouldn't have to do this anymore. It would make more sense to include a modest fee in the purchase price and then allow people to return junk electronics to stores at no additional charge.