Monday, May 12, 2008

Recycling my electronic waste

I am sure many computer geeks such as myself can relate to this.
For years I have been keeping my old computers under my desk. Sometimes they work good as footstools, but mostly they got in the way. Also after many salvages and upgrades I had also been keeping old ISA and PCI cards in a box and a junk drawer. I thought one day I should take them to a cycling facility.

Of course, every time I saw a notification to recycle or drop off old computers I would conveniently forget to act on it. Then the pile just sits there again waiting on another notification. In the meantime I was adding another motherboard and another old case to the pile.

I had also looked at computer recyclers, but most of these guys handle commercial accounts and charge you for the disposal. Since I am too cheap, I was not going to pay to dispose of my growing collection of computers and electronic parts.
But I was bound and determined not to dispose of this equipment by just throwing it in the garbage can.

So this spring I looked at the recycling program that our town sponsors. Hey they were recycling electroncs and it was a date in the future. I wrote the information on our family event calendar. This way it kept staring me in the face. I could not forget this.

It would be on a Saturday morning. I had to make sure I gathered everything the night before, as we have a busy Saturday morning family schedule. Putting all the equipment in the van on the same morning would not work. So I took the time to go through all of the pieces starting on Thursday.

I had to make sure I removed the hard drives and any memory sticks. I managed to remember to also remove a floppy drive as newer computers don't include those anymore. In all I had 4 computer cases, two motherboards(including one for a laptop), and various ISA and PCI cards. I also found some old laptop batteries, and a non-working UPS. Boy this lightened the load under the desk in my office. I could actually see the floor.

Since they said the would take all old electronics I decided to add an old receiver and a cassette player. This was in the hope that they would take that also.

What else could I find? Hey, an old color printer I had not used in years. Added it to the growing pile.

Well this all fit barely in the back of my Honda van. And without having to move any seats. Electronic clean out was done.

So Saturday morning came. I had to drop my daughter off at dance at 9 a.m. before I went to the town's garage where this recycling effort was being held. I had to be back in time to pick her up at 10 a.m. I did not know what to expect at the site. Were there going to be many cars with the same idea.

I pulled in and there was a truck with several pellets before it. Each pellet was designated for specific items. One for monitors, one for computer cases, and so on...
There also were friendly guys ready to help unload your vehicle. As I pulled up, one of the guys motioned for me to drive right up to where the truck was parked. Then he said: "Just stay in the car, we'll unload it for you." That was OK by me. They unloaded the van in record time. They even took the stereo. That was great!

That was a job well done. Recycling old computer parts is not that difficult and should be done. They indicated they would also take old monitors, TVs and old air-conditioners. Unfortunately, I would not have time later in the day to drop off this old 17" monitor I have. I'll save it for the next recycling event.

Now I feel good having done my part. And not having spent a dime. How is that for being green on a budget.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Reducing garbage/waste at home.

Here is a thought: How else can we be green without spending a lot or any money?
How about our daily garbage. How much waste/garbage do we send to the dump on a weekly basis? How much does this cost you? Are you charged per barrel you put to the curb?
Just this week I was looking at the amount of garbage I set to the curb. That's when I was thinking about how much we used to throw away.

They say the average household generates about one ton of garbage/waste per year. Of course that figure could be better/less or worse/more depending on who's study you look at. Either way that's a lot of garbage in a person's lifetime.

We are a family of five. We used to have a 50 gallon container filled to the rim, that I would roll to the curb on Monday night. It was heavy. Lucky for me it has wheels.
Then for the recycles we would have one container filled.(a blue box)

OK. So what goes into our garbage?

Our largest source of waste is from the kitchen. This used to be at least three full large kitchen bags. At times we have had four large kitchen bags per week. Then we added the garbage from the bathrooms, bedrooms and office. This in total became quite a large amount of weekly waste.

The kitchen garbage would include mostly food packaging, leftovers, and fruit and vegetable wastes. There was a lot of paper waste also: from advertisements, envelops and copier paper.

Man, what a waste!

So how have we reduced this amount over time? Now the actual amount of garbage we bring to the curb has gone down over the years. We maybe have one to two bags per week at the most from the kitchen. Then we also have one little bag each from the bathroom, bedrooms and office.

This reduction is largely due to the amount of recycling we do. I found out that most cereal boxes and other food boxes such as those from crackers were recyclable. Well that reduced the kitchen garbage significantly. I wish there were a way to recycle those inner plastic bags.
We only buy milk in recyclable plastic containers so no waste there. Newspapers and magazines get recycled.
Most, if not all, junk mail goes into the recycle bin, so that reduces it. Paper from the office gets recycled.

Every Monday night I put out two blue boxes for recyclables. One holds paper and carton. The other holds glass and plastic bottles and containers.

I know that we could reduce our waste even more. There are still many thing we do throw away, because they simply can not be recycled.

One thing I would like to work on for ourselves is composting. As long as it can be done economically I will do that in the near future.

Then there is the electronics and hazardous waste recycling program with the town. I now gather my elctronic parts and computers to take to the town in the spring. The also have a time when they collect hazardous waste. This may include paint and pesticides.

As long as we can do our part I feel good about being green. And all this without spending extra money.