Making a dent in e-waste

December 31, 2013 

How many computers have you owned in your life? Where are the discarded ones now? How about your old TVs, printers, microwave ovens, DVD players, and electric typewriters (remember those)? Between wanting or needing to upgrade and items that are no longer working, the pile adds up. With the quantity of e-waste generated each year (10.4 million tons in the U.S. alone in 2012), it's more important than ever to dispose of e-waste responsibly and keep it out of our landfills. E-waste — anything with a cord or battery — contains substances harmful to the environment, humans, and wildlife. Therefore, it's critical that it is disposed of properly.

Mike Blackwell of Sierra E-Waste Recycling is doing his part to lessen the tonnage of e-waste. He states that his business provides Eastern Madera County residents a convenient, no-cost (or low-cost if pickup is requested) service for scrapping old computers, TVs, printers, and microwaves, among many other devices. E-waste recycling opportunities help people to "do the right thing," he says.

Blackwell, 50, spent many years as a flooring contractor primarily in the Sacramento area. He moved to Madera County eight years ago and has operated his recycling business for three years. He'll tell you that the scale of e-waste recycling that he's doing isn't hugely profitable, but in talking with him, it's obvious he enjoys his work and finds it rewarding in other ways.

"It costs more to de-manufacture than to manufacture," Blackwell says, but he sees it as helping the planet in the long-term.

Coming from an urban area where recycling is mandated and controlled, with the corresponding infrastructure to handle it, Blackwell's observation is that many people in the more rural Mountain Area are not too aware of the importance of recycling and don't care one way or the other. However, according to Blackwell "most people feel good about recycling" once they're educated about its importance.

During the short time I was at the business interviewing him, five people stopped by to drop off e-waste (two microwave ovens, a printer, laptop computer, and an electronic musical instrument). He says the most common items he receives are TVs and computers. Blackwell expresses gratitude to the community that has made it possible for him to conduct his business.

Sierra E-Waste Recycling is located at 49879 Highway 41, on the lower level. Blackwell is typically at the facility Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but call first (559) 760-6764 if you are unsure if your item is acceptable or if you need help unloading it. You can also call for pick-up service, for which there is a reasonable charge based on the load and distance. He does not take refrigerators, freezers, or anything with freon.

Occasionally, Sierra E-Waste participates in special events, usually in conjunction with other recyclers, held in specific neighborhoods throughout the area. Keep your eyes open for notices of future events.

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