Steamboat Springs It might not be as common as recycling old newspapers and soda cans, but not disposing of computers and other old electronic equipment in landfills is becoming just as important.
Containing hazardous wastes such as lead, mercury and zinc, computers thrown in landfills are dangerous pollutants. But Yampa Valley Recycles and the city are giving locals an environmentally friendly way to dispose of old computers.
A $3,000 grant from the Colorado Governor's Office of Energy Management and Conservation will allow Yampa Valley Recycles to host a computer roundup day where locals can drop off old computer equipment. Steamboat is one of 15 communities that were given state money to hold a one-day collection event.
On July 27, locals can drop off old computers from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Steamboat Springs Airport on Elk River Road. There will be a fee for recycling the computers, $5 for monitors, $3 for PCUs and $2 for printers and scanners.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for individuals and businesses throughout Routt County to dispose of unwanted computer equipment in an environmentally safe way," said Barbara Hughes, chairwoman of Yampa Valley Recycles.
Hughes said computer monitors alone contain 5 to 8 pounds of lead. Other toxic materials in computers are cadmium, zinc, copper, chromium, mercury and manganese.
And once the old electronic equipment ends up in landfills, that hazardous material could seep into the ground and eventually into water systems.
Last June, the state Legislature passed a law making it illegal for businesses, government agencies and schools to throw computers, laptops, color TVs and cell phones into landfills. And the law adopted a fine of $35,000 per day for any company that did not properly dispose of computers.
Individuals are not required by law to recycle old electronics and can still use landfills to dispose of PCs, but legislation is proposed in Colorado that would prohibit all landfill use for these electronics.
Michelle Diehl, an administrator of Yampa Valley Recycles, said recycling computers is something that has come with the information age.
"I think communities in general are starting to realize the need for recycling. A lot of communities have already been doing this. We are a little slower," Diehl said. "It could be because we are so far from the market and so choose not to recycle even though we know it is the right thing to do."
But Diehl said this program, even with a fee, makes it much more affordable than driving to the Front Range to dispose of computers or calling a company to pick up a discarded system. On the local market, one company charges $60 for complete computer pickup and disposal, including the PCU, keyboard, monitor and printer. On the individual price scale, the monitor, which costs $30 for pickup and disposal, is the most expensive PC component.
When computers are recycled, the hazardous material is separated and taken to a computer recycling plant, like one in Denver. The plastic casing can be taken to landfills or burned in incinerators. The computers rounded up by Yampa Valley Recycles will be taken to Waste Not Recycle in Pierce.
If the computer is workable, it could go to GIVES INC., a nonprofit organization that takes recycled computers and donates them to low-income or disabled people.
Yampa Valley is partnering with the city, Routt County, Yampatika and the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. to host the collection day. But Diehl said the organization is still looking for 30 to 45 volunteers for the roundup day.
For more information, call the Yampa Valley Recycles Hotline at 870-7575.