Thursday, March 21, 2013

Nascar green flags 'e-scrap' recycling program

Nascar green flags 'e-scrap' recycling program

The sophisticated electronic components in race cars, fleet vehicles and the big rigs used for NASCAR are expected to be fodder for an e-waste program the racing organization is starting this season.

NASCAR plans to work on the initiative with Creative Recycling Systems, based Tampa, Fla., in the latest addition to the racing organization's recycling program, which already claims bragging rights as the largest and most diverse in pro sports.

NASCAR and CRS recently announced that the recycling firm has become one of the racing group's Official Green Partners. The company was introduced as a new green partner Friday in Daytona as fans and drivers prepared for the first race of the 2012 season in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series.

The new relationship has huge potential for expanding the scope and volume of recycling by NASCAR and its business-to-business partners, said Mike Lynch, the managing director of NASCAR Green Innovation. "The real impact of these folks is pretty cool," he said.

Creative Recycling provides collection, recycling and recovery solutions for e-waste -- typically business equipment, personal gadgets and household electronics. The firm also contends with banking, financial and medical technology that has reached the end of its useful life in its original state.

Now, Creative Recycling will also recycle office equipment from NASCAR and its many business partners, including venues and race teams, said Lynch.

CRS also is to become the go-to firm for recycling electronic components in all the vehicles that make NASCAR possible, Lynch said. That ranges from the showpieces of the industry that speed around the tracks to the workaday vehicles -- the business cars used in fleets as well as the caravans of semis that haul NASCAR's portable media operations center, race cars, and driver and team equipment from venue to venue.

And CRS will work with NASCAR on fan engagement events, including collection drives, to promote the idea of e-waste recycling.

CRS will start with recycling the organization's business electronics and computer equipment, and then will expand the program to other materials and the promotions for fans as the two green partners develop their new relationship, Lynch said. He said he anticipates further news on the initiative, along with details on some activities for fans, this spring in time for Earth Day.

Boosting E-Scrap Recycling

The likely tonnage of e-scrap from NASCAR and its business partners can help expand the scope and reach of CRS's services, and NASCAR's broader recycling program, said the recycling company and the racing organization. And promoting the concept to the audience of America's No. 1 spectator sport, whose following is estimated at 75 million, is expected to raise the awareness of recycling personal and household electronics, computers and gadgets -- items that range from cell phones and laptops to TVs and stereo systems.

In business, e-cycling has become an expectation, Lynch said. "Companies are realizing that it is no longer acceptable for this material to go into landfill," he said.

More and more consumers are realizing it as well but are often stymied because it's not as easy to deal with e-waste as it is to recycle a newspaper or a bottle. Users have to find a place that accepts e-scrap and, often, must bring their material to a collection site. Bigger items, like televisions, can be problematic. And it's not always clear whether the items will be processed responsibly or domestically.

"And so, people will often just put their items into the trash and cringe," said Lynch. NASCAR focused on CRS because of its credibility as a responsible recycler, he said.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Responsible Recycling: My E-Waste Odyssey

Circuit boards removed from old computers and televisions at Total Reclaim, a recycler in Seattle. 
Stuart Isett for The New York Times Circuit boards removed from old computers and televisions at Total Reclaim, a recycler in Seattle.
Green: Living
Most Americans know that e-waste is supposed to be recycled. Items like cellphones, batteries, televisions, digital clocks, video game systems and broken computers shouldn’t be tossed in the trash because they contain dangerous chemicals and heavy metals that could end up in landfills that way, experts warn.

Computer boxes exhort you to “Please Recycle.” Battery containers carry pictures of little trash bins with an emphatic red “X” drawn across them. But admonishing consumers to recycle their e-waste in cute little cartoons is far easier than properly disposing of it as a consumer. Unlike the universal recycling bin that is usually close at hand for disposing of a soda can, systems for e-waste recycling vary greatly from place to place. Rules also vary depending on the kind of gadget involved.

Laws now govern e-waste recycling. In New York City, it is illegal to throw rechargeable batteries into the trash; in New York State, wireless providers must take up to 10 cellphones from a customer or provide free shipping to a recycler. More laws are in the pipeline. But these regulations are even harder to enforce than pooper-scooper laws, and for now are routinely broken.

I make a living writing about the environment and have reported on the dangerous traffic in electronic waste, which can end up poisoning children in Africa and Asia who eke out a living picking apart our children’s old computers. Which is why over the last few years my family gradually accumulated a veritable graveyard of broken and outdated electronic equipment in our small apartment that I could not throw away or quickly figure out how to recycle: laptops, old cellphones, Game Boys, Xbox equipment, batteries and used printer cartridges.

Well this fall, the jig was up: we were moving to a different Manhattan apartment, and I resolved to figure out how to get rid of the junk. The process took considerable investigation — the answer was not always easy or obvious. After all, stores want to sell you new things, not take back your old stuff. Here are some tips gathered on my e-waste recycling odyssey. Please share yours!

• Printer cartridges. Some office supply stores will accept these, most notably Staples, where my spent cartridge collection ended up. You can even get a small store credit for each cartridge turned in as an incentive. (Note to those with dozens of cartridges: you only get credit for 10 cartridges per visit.)

• Cellphones, chargers and batteries. Many electronics stores collect these, although few advertise the service (as in, “Drop Off Your Broken Phones Here!”). Some will take old equipment as partial payment for new purchases. Others have a box somewhere in the store where old equipment can be deposited. My items ended up in a small unmarked brown box at a Radio Shack in the Morningside Heights area. They barely fit into the box, and certainly no one thanked me. But at least it wasn’t in my apartment.

• Computers. This turned out to be the hard one. Some environmental groups and computer stores organize e-waste recycling collection drives. In New York City, the Lower East Side Ecology Center and Tekserve, a computer store on 23rd Street, organize four collection days a year, but I don’t have a car and it was hard for me to get three old computers to the location at the prescribed time. (The store will also accept your old computer for recycling when you purchase a new one.)

Because the three old computers in my home were Macs, I stopped by the local Apple store. I discovered that old iPods can be turned in, and the customer gets 10 percent off the purchase of a new one. But it’s more complicated to offload computers, which the stores will not accept directly. Instead you must go to the Apple site, where you provide information about the type of equipment you want to turn in.

PowerOn, the California company that takes back the material, will send you a box with packaging material. You pack up the computer and peripherals and take it to the nearest FedEx store. Shipping is free. In theory, you even get some profit for your trouble since PowerOn promises to send you an Apple gift card (I was promised $70 to $80 for each laptop) as compensation for the merchandise sent.

So for a brief blessed interlude, my home is free of e-waste.

Or was. This week my son’s laptop died and could not be fixed. It’s a Sony. At its Web site, Sony proudly describes its national “e-recycling” dropoff points. But there are none near my ZIP code. Here we go again …
How is e-waste recycled where you live?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Meet California's 10-year-old recycling tycoon

With his bike (and occasionally a ride from his dad), Vanis Buckholz has started his own recycling business in Corona Del Mar.

His story, and President Obama's pick to succeed Lisa Jackson at the U.S. EPA and a look at Heil Environmental's truck doctor, all top this week's "Curbside Live."

Watch video......

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What do I do with a dead UPS?

Question: My UPS is dead and I need to dispose of it. Is there any kind of special consideration here (is it dangerous?), or can I just dump it into the trash?
The answers to those three questions are yes, it can be, and no. Most of the batteries used in UPS systems are lead-acid, the same technology used in a car battery, so most of the things you've heard about those apply here. The batteries are sealed, and as long as that seal remains intact, the biggest danger—exposure to the sulfuric acid within—is minimal. Hit it with the compaction used by most garbage trucks, however, and you run the risk of giving someone an acid bath.

Even if the acid weren't an issue, however, you wouldn't want to just dump the battery into the local municipal waste stream. Lead is a potent toxin, with both immediate and chronic effects, so it needs to be disposed of properly. That's also true of cadmium, an ingredient of the primary alternative to lead-acid batteries, the Ni-Cd. So, no matter which type of UPS you've got, the contents of its battery are toxic. Try to avoid eating it, and don't just dump it in the trash.

Because they have toxic ingredients, disposal of batteries is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The rules there are rich in bureaucratese (an example: "Batteries, as described in Sec. 273.9, that are not yet wastes under part 261 of this chapter, including those that do not meet the criteria for waste generation in paragraph (c) of this section."), but the EPA has also provided some human-readable advice. The feds are not the only ones with regulations; most states and a number of municipalities have their own rules governing how spent batteries are handled. The end result of this regulation is that the manufacturers of batteries that contain toxic waste are responsible for recycling them once they're no longer in use.

Notice that's "recycled," and not "disposed of." The rules require that the batteries get recycled, and many major manufacturers have banded together to form a non-profit company that collects the batteries and sends them into a single recycling stream; the vast majority of the lead and cadmium reclaimed from batteries ends up right back in other batteries. Many companies have their own programs in place for returning the spent batteries to them (APC's program, for example, lets you download a prepaid shipping label online).
If your manufacturer is not so generous, you may still be in luck, as the non-profit mentioned above also helps collect the batteries from consumers. A trip to its homepage lets you enter a zip code and find a battery drop-off location.

The EPA also recommends a similar resource.

If that's too much work, your state may make life even easier. In New York, for example, any place that sells batteries is required by law to accept them. As a result, the battery can be taken to any office supply, home improvement store, or drugstore.

So, in summary: your UPS's battery contains toxic ingredients; although these don't present a danger as long as the battery is intact, it's illegal to to dispose of it in the trash. Fortunately, you have plenty of options for getting rid of it safely, and with the knowledge that the toxic chemicals will be recycled.

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles