I came home, dropped my bag by my desk and pressed the power button on my laptop.
The lights flickered and my computer hummed to life like always, but following the familiar chime it plays to let me know it’s ready to go, the unthinkable happened. Like watching a Polaroid picture develop in reverse, the screen’s cheerful beach desktop image faded away in bubbled blotches until there was nothing but white. After several attempts to resuscitate it, I had to accept that my computer would never come back to life.
My story isn’t uncommon. Technology isn’t meant to last forever, and even if it did, people would turn in their old devices to get the newer, faster model anyway. So I braced my wallet for impact and bought a new computer, but still had a big problem on my hands: what am I supposed to do with the old one?
Before advances in the green movement, the answer was simple – just dump it. Take it to the landfill and be done with it. But today, recycling electronics, known as e-waste, is a growing trend. Rather than tossing electronics into a landfill, where the components can break down and pollute the soil, people are encouraged to take their old and defunct electronics to a certified e-cycle facility where the hardware can be stripped for parts or refurbished so someone else can use it.
Brentwood resident Louis Sarkis, who owns Blue Star Electronics, LLC in Hayward, believes that properly disposing of your e-waste is the environmentally responsible thing to do.
“It took time to get most people on board with tossing papers, plastics, cardboard and glass into the blue bin for recycle pickup, and now we need to train people to properly dispose of their electronics,” Sarkis said. “What most people don’t realize is that if it plugs into the wall, it’s probably recyclable, so don’t throw it in the trash.”
Blue Star Electronics regularly teams up with the Liberty Union High School District’s Education Wins Foundation to host fundraisers. The next event is scheduled for Sept. 29 at The Streets of Brentwood. Residents are invited to drop of a range of electronics: LCD/LED monitors and TVs, plasma TVs, computers, hard drives, computer peripherals, printers, scanners, FAX/copy/answering machines, servers, radios, stereos, circuit boards, CD/DVD/video/cassettes and players, calculators, connectors/cables and small and large appliances.
Sarkis said the e-waste collection is taken to the Blue Star Electronics warehouse, where all of the donations are sorted. Refurbished items are resold at a discounted price. Some items that can be saved, as well as items in perfectly good condition, are fixed up to best working condition and donated to schools or nonprofits such as Shepherd’s Gate.
Donated items that no longer work and can’t be fixed are dismantled and individual parts are donated or sold to groups for reuse. Sarkis emphasized that as a certified e-waste recycler, he doesn’t deal with companies that will dump parts into landfills or send them on cargo ships to be dumped overseas.
“Everything can be reused or repurposed,” Sarkis said “That’s why you have to be careful about where you donate items. Some people just sell the parts and don’t care where those parts end up, but that has no benefit to the environment, so what’s the point? Make sure to do your homework before you turn in your e-waste.”
Blue Star Electronics makes house calls and conducts pickups at local businesses in Contra Costa County looking to get rid of electronic equipment. For more information, visit www.bluestarco.com or call 510-259-1879.
For a list of e-cycle locations throughout the Bay Area, visit http://1.usa.gov/5Ts04R.