This article was originally published in the Teton Valley News on January 2, 2014. It is reposted with permission.
The holidays are over. You enjoyed quality family time, good food, and perhaps even a few new gizmos. Now the question remains, “what do I do with all that waste?”
Americans nearly double their waste right after Christmas! However, most holiday waste can be reused or recycled, such as cardboard boxes and holiday cards on plain paper. Plastic film that stretches when you poke it, including most bubble wrap, can be recycled with plastic shopping bags at Broulim’s. Live holiday trees can be dropped off in the brush piles at the transfer station in Driggs, where they will be chipped and reused. If it is time to replace your holiday lights, TVCR can help you find a way to recycle your old ones.
If Santa brought you new electronics this year, be sure to dispose of your old ones properly. Electronics and the batteries that power them contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and chromium that could seep into groundwater if disposed of in a landfill. Burning them is worse, as it releases heavy metals and toxins into the air.
First, consider whether or not your old electronics could be reused. Apple has a trade in program for working iPhones, iPads, laptop and desktop computers, and will send you a gift card for the value. Silverstar Communications uses phones in good working condition for their loaner program, reuses parts from others to repair phones, and recycles the rest through The Wireless Alliance. Other takeback programs can be found online at electronicstakeback.com.
If your old electronics have no resale or takeback value, you can recycle them. The Teton County transfer station accepts used and broken electronics such as cell phones, digital cameras, iPods, computers, television sets, and printers. A company called R.O.M. (Recycle Old Materials) out of Rexburg breaks apart the electronics into all of the different components like copper wiring and different grades of switchboards for recycling. They drill holes in computer hard drives to ensure that information cannot be stolen. In the spring of 2013, staff from the transfer station and TVCR visited R.O.M. to make sure their facility was up to our standards. We left feeling confident about both the safety of the operation for workers and the efforts the company was making to ensure ethical endpoints for the recyclable materials.
Old batteries of all kinds can be recycled at the transfer station in Driggs. Recycling batteries keeps heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel out of our landfills while providing a second life for steel and zinc. Switch to rechargeable batteries when possible to reduce your battery waste and save money. After hundreds of charges, rechargeable batteries can be recycled at Ace Hardware or the transfer station in Driggs. Because they become slightly less predictable as they age, rechargeable batteries should not be used in life saving devices such as avalanche beacons.
Recycling your holiday waste gives new life to old stuff, keeps our environment clean from hazardous chemicals, and reduces the need to extract or harvest raw materials. Instead of doubling your waste post-holidays, turn it into gifts that keep on giving!
US EPA: http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/battery.htm
The Electronics Takeback Coalition: http://electronicstakeback.com
Center for a New American Dream: http://newdream.org
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