E-waste recycling event sets record

June 3, 2011

On Friday, May 13th community members and University of Chicago staff, faculty, and students stopped at the Kimbark Gravel Lot on their way in to work and class. Greeted by SAGE Ambassadors who began volunteering at 7am, attendees popped open their trunks to unload broken, outdated, or unwanted electronic equipment, ranging from laptops and computer monitors to batteries and shredders. Throughout the day, hundreds attended the second e-waste recycling event, which netted over 43,000 pounds of electronic and scientific equipment for recycling. Of this total, 6,500 pounds of computer equipment will refurbished and distributed to area schools by Computers for Schools.

After helping themselves to complimentary coffee and pastries, event participants spoke to Ambassadors about why they came to the event and the need for e-waste recycling opportunities. “This is so great,” said one University alumna who lives nearby, “I’ve had this equipment sitting in my apartment for three or four years. I just didn’t want to throw it in the trash, so I held onto it so it could be disposed of in an environmentally responsible way.”

The event, a partnership between the Office of Sustainability, Facilities Services, and IT Services, was an opportunity to responsibly dispose of difficult-to-recycle items. A variety of items were collected: TVs, radios, cell phones, car phones, computers and monitors, printers, game consoles, table-top appliances, light bulbs, keyboards, shredders, vacuum cleaners, power supplies, batteries, numerous typewriters, speakers, and air conditioners. By collecting and properly recycling these items, materials were diverted from the landfill and the contaminants often found in these items won’t leach into the area water supply, nor will they be destined for toxic, unregulated dumps abroad. Read our previous article for more information on e-waste.

All week long, there were designated drop-off locations for those who could not attend the event. Thanks to the Social Service Administration, Ratner Athletics Center, Regenstein Library, and Ida Noyes Hall for coordinating these drop-offs. Over 9,000 pounds of material were collected at these locations alone.

“This year’s event was a tremendous success,” says Sustainability Program Coordinator Colleen Lanier Christensen. “The huge increase in e-waste collected—nearly double last year’s total of 22,000 pounds—really speaks to the scope of the problem.” Rose Muldrow, volunteer SAGE Ambassador and staff member in Financial Services, brought over faulty carbon monoxide and smoke detectors for recycling. She commented, “We all have these items sitting in our basements or closets at work, but it’s really difficult to find a place to put these things.”

Buildings including the Gordon Center for Integrative Science (GCIS) and the Regenstein Library took it upon themselves to organize special internal collections for building occupants with one cumulative delivery to the main recycling event on Friday. The Biological Sciences Division’s Hull Court buildings took part in a month-long Spring Cleaning initiative to collect and responsibly dispose of chemical waste, old lab equipment, paper, furniture, and e-waste, with one week specifically devoted to collecting laboratory and electronic equipment. As a result of this initiative, the Hull Court buildings, Biological Sciences Learning Center, Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery, and GCIS together filled two large trucks with an estimated 10,000 pounds of outdated and broken equipment, including a lot of scientific equipment that SAGE Ambassadors couldn’t even begin to identify. Judd Johnson, Associate Director for Operations in Facilities, Design and Construction at the Medical Center, expressed his appreciation for the event, “This event reduced clutter in our buildings, helping to create safer workspaces for staff and faculty. And our staff were excited to take part in this effort knowing that all items would be disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.”

For more on the event and items collected, check out our photos on Facebook (and be sure to “Like” us while you’re there!).

For those who missed the event and have items to recycle, refer to our recycling directory for instructions. IT Services recycles computers, laptops, monitors, keyboards, modems, printers, and scanners free of charge for students, staff, and faculty at the University. We plan to host additional e-waste recycling events during the next academic year.