By Kristine Galloway
CHEYENNE – The weather is warming up some, and we just might see the early spring promised last month by revered groundhog Punxsatawney Phil.
With warmer weather comes the tradition of spring cleaning, which increasingly includes tossing and recycling old electronics, especially because people receive new items as Christmas gifts.
The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is asking residents to recycle their old electronics to the extent allowed by local recycling facilities.
Craig McOmie, WDEQ’s state recycling coordinator said electronic waste, or e-waste, is one of several types of waste that are legal to place in landfills but that could be detrimental to the environment if a leak were to occur at the landfill.
“Items such as these can be reused or repurposed in lieu of disposal, thus eliminating risks posed to groundwater once buried,” he said.
“It makes environmental sense to reuse or repurpose materials that have secondary uses or that can be easily remanufactured into another product or the same again.”
He added that recycling items can create jobs because the process of recycling involves more work than simply burying items in a landfill.
Many local transfer stations do accept e-waste as recyclable items, though residents should check with their transfer stations to be sure.
Dennis Pino, transfer station supervisor for the City of Cheyenne, said his station accepts all e-waste.
Cheyenne pays I.T. Refresh out of Fort Collins to collect the recycled e-waste. The cost is included in the city’s sanitation fees.
“It’s very expensive to deal with this stuff,” he said.
Pino added that all recycling costs have increased recently, not just cost for e-waste, but that it’s important to recycle as much as possible, so the city continues its recycling program.
And Pino confirmed that, although e-waste recycling happens year-round, it happens more in springtime.
He said the Cheyenne transfer station accepted about 5.5 tons of e-waste in December 2019, compared to about 15.5 tons in April 2019. And that’s likely because of spring cleaning.
Kent Jasperson, solid waste manager for Teton County, said they accept all e-waste and ship it to an e-waste disposal company.
He said that, overall, his transfer station has accepted about 91,525 pounds of e-waste.
Jasperson said the Teton County transfer station sees a rise in recycling in spring, just as Cheyenne does, but also in fall because Jackson is a tourist destination.
“A lot of people move in, in the spring and move out in the fall. We see a spike in the fall when they leave all their junky computers behind,” he explained.
The Teton County transfer station also takes old televisions when hotels in the area replace theirs.
Jasperson said Teton County requires all residents to separate their items before recycling. Not all landfills require that.
When recyclable items are mixed with items that cannot be recycled, sometimes items that could otherwise be recycled are contaminated and have to go to landfills.
“In my opinion, source separation curtails the contamination ratio. I utilize the help of every citizen in the community to make that happen,” Jasperson explained.
He noted that the Teton County transfer station has a contamination rate of 1% or 2%, which he said is low in the recycling industry.
Not all landfills have the opportunity to recycle all types of e-waste, however. The landfill in Casper does not recycle computer monitors and televisions.
Cynthia Langston, solid waste division manager for the City of Casper, said it’s just too expensive for them to recycle those items, though they do recycle other e-waste.
But that doesn’t mean all computer monitors and televisions go in the landfill.
“If they’re reusable for someone, we do have a couple of local reuse shops that will come and take those,” she said.
All e-waste is accepted at the transfer station in Casper, and they don’t charge the public extra for dropping off e-waste. Like Cheyenne, the cost is included in the city’s sanitation fees.
There are more ways to recycle than just at the local landfill or transfer station, however.
Langston said, “Waste recycling is really great, but if we want to make a difference, we should reduce our waste.”