Rhode Island to Establish Nation's First Statewide Computer Recycling Program

Because of an enthusiastic turnout at two pilot computer recycling collections, Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp. (RIRRC) has announced it will establish a permanent computer drop-off program at its recycling facility in Johnston, R.I.

Despite cold, wet weather and long lines, thousands of Rhode Islanders from all corners of the state converged on the cities of Newport and Providence this November to recycle more than 90 thousand tons of computer equipment.

"We were pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the turnout on two very wintry days," says RIRRC Communications Manager Beth Bailey.

More than a year ago, concern about the proliferation of computer waste - and the hazardous materials such as nickel cadmium and lead they contain - prompted RIRRC to begin researching the feasibility of computer collection. But when RIRRC asked other state governments for advice on establishing a state-wide computer recycling program, the agency was surprised to find that no other such programs existed.

In fact, only a few counties nationwide have tried collecting computers for recycling, Bailey says. Now, municipalities and private companies are calling RIRRC to learn about Rhode Island's initiative.

This is not the first time Rhode Island has blazed new recycling territory, according to Bailey. In 1986, Rhode Island became the first state to mandate recycling for all municipalities and businesses.

But RIRRC hopes to achieve its statewide computer recycling goals without legislative intervention, Bailey adds.

"We want to encourage people to donate [computers] for re-use or recycling without having our general assembly mandate it, as the Massachusetts state legislature has done," she says.

For its pilot collection program, RIRRC paid CRT Recycling of Raynham, Mass., 15 cents per pound to collect and remove monitors. CRT collected keyboards, mice and central processing units for free.

RIRRC now is looking for a permanent vendor to collect computer waste from a drop-off point near the agency's recycling facility. Bailey expects a permanent, state-wide computer recycling program to be up and running by early summer 2001.