Oak Creek man sees profits in recycling computers

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— Stripped computer cases and dismantled circuit boards clutter the workshop attached to Gary Cruson's house in Oak Creek.

These electronic skeletons are the remnants of old computers and the evidence of Cruson's new business for recycling them. In the last year, G&S Enterprises has expanded from the buying and selling of computers to the recycling and refurbishing of them.

Inspired by a Colorado law that makes throwing computers in landfills illegal, Cruson has gone into the business of collecting old computers, taking apart the pieces that contain hazardous waste and restoring workable ones to give away.

The Universal Waste Rule passed June 19 makes it illegal for businesses, government agencies and schools to throw away computers, laptops, color televisions and cell phones. It is punishable with a fine of $35,000 per day.

G&S Enterprises has been around since 1995, but Cruson became involved in the end life side of computers when working with Gives Inc., a non-profit organization that takes discarded, workable computers and donates them to low-income and disabled groups.

Any computer that is a workable Pentium II and Power Mac or above, Cruson will pick-up, refurbish the hard drive and donate it to Gives Inc.
If the computer is not workable, Cruson will dismantle it, separate the hazardous waste, take all the toxic material to a Denver computer recycling plant and put the plastic pieces in landfills.

At the moment, Cruson says his business isn't highly profitable. But he thinks that will change.

"I hope to make a profit. But, I don't think I will for a year. It's going to take people a while to understand that they need to recycle instead of throwing computers away. I'm just hoping to break even on expenses this year," Cruson said.

To collect and dispose of old computers, Cruson charges $60 for complete computer pick-up and disposal, including the PCU, keyboard, monitor and printer. On the individual price scale, the monitor, which costs $30 for pick-up and disposal, is the most expensive PC piece.
Items like large mainframe hard drives and tape drives, run at a disposal rate of $75.

Cruson also disposes of color TV's, cell phones, fax machines and palm pilots.

Cruson said that the average computer monitor contains about eight pounds of lead, a material that can also be found in computer circuit boards. Batteries in personal computers, which contain mercury, lithium and cadmium, can also be toxic at high levels.

On Carter's Web site, www.springsips.com/~gsinc, he claims that more than 315 million computers are expected to become obsolete by the year 2004 and contain an estimated 1.2 billion pounds of lead. Carter believes most businesses in Steamboat are still using landfills to dispose of electronic wastes.

Individuals are not required by law to recycle old electronics and can still use landfills to throw away PCs. But Cruson said that law might change with proposed legislation.

"A person can still do (throw it in a landfill) if they don't mind putting eight pounds of lead in to a system that runs into the ground and streams," he said.

One of Cruson's inspirations for creating a recycling business was a Web site (www.svtc.org) published by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, which discusses the environmental dangers of electronic wastes and the shipping of old computers to developing countries. For more information on Cruson's business, call 736-2364.

To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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