County collects 2 tons of e-waste
June 13, 2019
The Sanders County Yard Sale-ing event is scheduled for June 28-29. But residents got a jump start on cleaning out the clutter when the county sponsored the annual e-waste even last Saturday. The county collected 5,248 pounds of electronics at the event.
Held at the Thompson Falls Transfer Site, residents brought everything from old computers, televisions, printers and copiers to weed eaters, cellphones and electric heaters. "Anything that can be plugged in, we'll take," said Shelly Mitchell, owner of Oreo's Refining of Missoula. The county pays Oreo's to hold the e-waste event and help recycle the old electronics.
Mitchell said she spends countless hours stripping down machines to the basics. She separates metal and plastic, and she even strips down wire to the point that she can separate the copper to recycle. Mitchell said that last year she recycled more than 20,000 pounds of materials. She works with Axmen in Missoula to keep the business local. Mitchell feels better working with a local recycler because she knows where the materials end up.
Though she attends several e-waste events throughout the state and has even been out of state for events, Mitchell doesn't just strip materials for recycling. She also is handy at building items for herself. She said that she is currently working on building a camper to put in the back of her pickup so that they have a place to stay when they travel for e-waste event. Currently, all the disassembling of equipment happens in a horse trailer, but Mitchell was given an old camp trailer and is working to rebuild that into a mobile e-waste trailer. She said she will use about any material.
While Mitchell stays busy helping people get rid of old electronics and helping to make sure less materials end up in the landfill, it is not a lucrative occupation. From the more than 10 tons of material she recycled last year, Mitchell said she only made about $1,700. When Mitchel does an e-waste event like that in Sanders County, or when she goes to a residence to pick up old electronics, she charges a fee. She said a lot of people ask why they must pay to recycle something, and she said the return is not great, make the fees necessary for her to continue to be in business. Just as recycling costs increase for the county, the costs also increase for private recycling companies. Mitchell said the recent tariffs have also affected her business because it's more expensive to recycle.
Dusti Johnson, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Materials Management Specialist, helped coordinate the Sanders County event. She attended four e-waste events throughout the state in one week, and commended Sanders County for continuing to make and effort to help recycle e-waste.
Kathy Conlin with Sanders County noted that each year, the amount of e-waste collected decreases. Johnson said that is common at all of the events as people continue to get rid of their old electronics. The first year in Sanders County, 2014, almost 20,000 pounds of e-waste was collected. In 2018, that number was down to 8,200. Conlin and Johnson said the state and county will continue to support e-waste events as long as there is a need. Conlin was happy with the turnout at the event this year.
Each year, Conlin challenges Sanders County schools to participate in the event, and the school that brings the most e-waste gets a certificate from DEQ. This year, Plains brought the most to be recycled, but Conlin noted that Dixon drove the farthest to turn in their recycling. Both schools received certificates from the DEQ for their efforts.