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Streamlining E-vents

WHEN CALIFORNIA PASSED the Electronic Waste and Recycling Act of 2003, it became the first state to legislate the handling and disposal of e-waste. The act establishes a point-of-purchase fee ranging from $6 to $10 that consumers will pay to retailers to help cover the costs of e-waste recycling.

Nevertheless, the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB), Sacramento, expects the management and operational costs for haulers, municipalities, and recyclers of e-waste to increase as the number of one-day special events to collect the waste grows. Curbside and commingled collection methods often are not practical for monitors and tvs because these items tend to be too bulky for residential pickups and have high breakage rates.

In anticipation of this trend, and to help smooth out some of the challenges of hosting collection events, Peninsula Sanitary Services Inc. (PSSI), Stanford, Calif., Dell Computers, Round Rock, Texas, and the National Recycling Coalition (NRC), Washington, D.C., developed a public-private partnership and sponsored a two-day e-waste collection workshop at Stanford University in October. The workshop uncovered three top challenges to e-waste collection events: controlling finances, managing logistics and quantifying the event.

Controlling finances

Based on PSSI's workshop, the partners estimate an e-waste collection event can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,00 for a small event to $25,000 to $50,000 for a large hauler. PSSI's collection budget was approximately $15,000.

Workshop leaders say inviting corporate sponsors and donors to participate — a task that is not so easily accomplished — is one of the best ways to cut costs. Few major computer manufacturers are willing to pay for the collection of e-waste that is not their own. Local ordinances also may prevent a sponsor from advertising on public property with banners or logos. However, obtaining federal, state, local or private foundation grants and soliciting volunteers will help entice corporate sponsors because companies will be more likely to participate if the financial burden will be shared.

To attract unpaid volunteers, companies should allow partners, civic groups or nonprofit organizations to receive the donated computers. Volunteer Match [www.volunteermatch.com] can be used to help find volunteer event staffing. Remember to train volunteers and to obtain a waiver or signed release from them excusing the waste hauler or event sponsor from liability.

Managing logistics

Logistics are best left up to professional service providers because they have expertise in acquiring the necessary permits, security, traffic control, insurance, signage, safety equipment, containers, semi tractor-trailers, forklifts, drivers and material handlers. Additionally, a key component of the collection of monitors is reuse or resale. It is important that a logistics company with experience in handling electronics be used to ensure a higher yield rate on materials.

Quantifying the event

Quantifying an event can help advertise and promote future workshops, and it can land additional grant money. Numbers and statistics will prove to potential sponsors and to the public that the waste hauler is operating efficiently.

PSSI collected more than 47 tons of surplus, obsolete or end-of-life monitors, computers and related equipment. With a budget of $15,000, collection costs amounted to approximately $319 per ton, which is toward the low end of the spectrum. Studies conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., state that e-waste collection costs range from $240 per ton to $1,240 per ton.

In addition to adding e-waste runs to curbside routes, increasing one-day e-waste events demonstrates the waste industry's concern and creativity in solving an environmental problem. More information on e-waste events can be found in “Computer Recycling for Education,” available at Barnes & Noble Bookstores or www.computerrecycleforeduc.com.