RecycleMania introduces e-waste recycling

The competition, RecycleMania, runs through March 29 and promotes increased recycling efforts across more than 400 universities. Universities report their recycling efforts and compete for prizes in several categories, such as the gross tonnage of paper, cardboard, bottles and cans, the waste diversion rate and the amount of electronics collected.

But unlike the other categories, e-waste allows public contribution to count toward MSU’s total.

Tom Baldwin, a student supervisor at the Recycling Center and a mechanical engineering freshman, said recycling is a way to find a better place for all those items collecting dust.

Baldwin said sorting all the electronics was like a blast from the past. “It’s crazy because a lot of this stuff I grew up with,” he said.

Volunteers and workers unloaded once-working or once-used electronics from arriving cars and sorted them into large boxes. The boxes were packed with relics of the past, long ago and recent - Mickey Mouse waffle irons, reel-to-reel tape recorders, DVD players, cathode ray tube TVs.

After the boxes were sealed and loaded into a semi-truck, they were shipped off to a facility that wipes any sensitive data and either scraps or resells the electronics.

The company in charge of the facility, Vintage Tech Recyclers, is MSU’s contracted waste recycler and shares a portion of what the scrapped or reused electronics sell for.

Recycling electronics is a way of diverting them from landfills and preventing hazardous chemicals and heavy metals from leaching into the soil, said Kris Jolley, MSU Recycling operations and programs manager.

Steve Chalker, the general manager of Vintage Tech’s Michigan Division, has worked a variety of recycling jobs. For him, nothing has been more fascinating than recycling electronics.

“The items are changing so fast,” Chalker said. “I think of rotary phones as vintage, but for college students, it’s flip phones.”

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