Across the country, many communities are catching the electronics-recycling wave. Recently, the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO), also decided to “hang 10” with its recent computer drive that collected 45 tons.
This past January, SWACO organized a three-day event to collect old computers, keyboards, monitors, printers and other computer components. More than 1,000 families filled 10 tractor trailers, whose contents then were shipped to the Trumbull Correctional Institute, Leavittsville, Ohio. There, inmates restored computers and donated them to Ohio schools. If computers could not be restored, they were dismantled and recycled.
The Ohio Penal Industries approached SWACO to setup the e-drive as a way to help the environment and schools, and to develop inmates' job skills. SWACO knew of other communities in the Midwest that had worked with prison laborers and was interested in a partnership that helped everyone.
“We thought we'd take advantage of what the [Ohio Penal Industries] was trying to do and partner with them,” says Ron Mills, assistant executive direction of SWACO. “The program helped to achieve a multiple set of goals.”
To organize the program, SWACO established two drop-off locations at opposite ends of Franklin County. One site was located at a SWACO facility and the other was in a shopping mall parking lot. The department also arranged for its employees to help gather equipment at the collection sites, placed signs to direct traffic, rented additional trailers, set up a storage area and enlisted its drivers to deliver the goods. To promote the event, ads were placed on the radio and in newspapers.
The e-drive exceeded SWACO's expectations, and the lessons learned at the event will help the department organize future activities. At the next drive, more timely service will be provided so that participants will not wait as long to drop off equipment. “We didn't expect the number of participants. We learned a lot from this limited experience,” Mills says.
In total, SWACO estimates that the e-drive cost approximately $15,000. This includes manpower, renting extra trailers and advertising costs. However, the additional landfill airspace that was saved was priceless, Mills adds.
“We don't have any other area in Franklin County to locate another landfill. We view that airspace as a commodity that is very valuable,” he says.
In the future, SWACO plans to establish a permanent drop-off site for e-waste and plans to host additional e-drives.