According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2009 an estimated 438 million electronic products were sold in the United States alone — a two-fold increase since 1997 — which has led to annual increases in electronic waste. Through its annual electronic waste-recycling event, held this year on Thursday, March 6 in lot B5, the University of Richmond has continued its commitment to lowering the number of electronics that end up as waste.
The event is part of RecycleMania, a nationwide competition aimed at reducing waste and increasing recycling on college campuses, which is over at the end of the month.
“This is probably the fifth or sixth year we’ve done something like this,” said Doug West, assistant vice president of Information Services. He said the recycling event was a cooperative event organized by Information Services and the Office of Sustainability, and sponsored by President Ayers’ office.
By noon, the event had already proven to be a success. “We’ve gotten more stuff this year than we did all last year combined,” said Celia Landesberg, a senior at Richmond who has worked with the Office of Sustainability for four years.
West said he thought the increase in electronics at the event was partly because of increased awareness thanks to notifications via SpiderBytes and a school-wide email. He said sometimes people hang on to old electronics for a long time, so that could also have aided the event this year as people dumped years’ worth of old electronics.
Arrow, the company that handles the university’s electronic recycling needs, has provided recycling services nearly every year Richmond has held the event.
Melissa Beavers and Jordan Gallaher, both employees of Arrow present at the recycling event, said after boxing the electronics would be shipped to a facility in Ashland where they would be sorted. If the electronics are usable, they will be refurbished and sold, while unusable electronics are taken to other facilities where the chemicals and specialized materials can be best handled.
“We make sure that its disposed of in the same responsible way that we make sure the university equipment is disposed of,” Megan Litke, sustainability manager at Richmond, said.
According to data provided by Arrow to Megan Litke, last year, Richmond collected 403 items at the recycling event, a total of 3,550 pounds. The event saved enough energy to power 43 homes, removed enough greenhouse gas emissions from the air equal to four fewer cars on the road, and prevented the production of hazardous waste equal to the weight of 24 bricks.
“We’re doing really well this year thanks to the new recycling program,” Litke said. “Our recycling rate is now about 32 percent and last year it was 12 percent, so we’ve made a really big jump.”
Despite the overall success of the electronic recycling event, it did lack one thing: more student involvement. Even though there were more electronics than last year, they were nearly all provided by faculty or staff.
Landesberg said the Office of Sustainability had been working on initiatives to reengage the student body, such as Greeks Going Green, which is a program that aims to involve Greek organizations on campus in sustainability efforts.
West said although more student involvement was a goal, he suspected that part of the reason students don’t participate as much as faculty and staff is because students don’t have as many old electronics laying around because of space restrictions that accompany living on campus.
Contact reporter Richard Arnett at email@example.com