The Recycle Bin: How are Electronics recycled? Can shredded paper be recycled?

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1. How are Electronics recycled?

Electronics, such as televisions, computers, and computer monitors, contain toxic substances, including lead, mercury, cadmium, lithium, brominated flame retardants, phosphorous coatings, and PVC plastics. Because of the threat posed by these toxics, it is illegal to throw cathode ray tubes and LCD screens into the trash in Maine. Electronics also contain high quality plastics, copper, aluminum, and small amounts of silver, gold, and other precious metals.

Under Maine’s product stewardship program for e-waste, manufacturers pay for the recycling of televisions, portable DVD players, game consoles, computer monitors, laptops, tablets, e-readers, 3D printers, desktop and portable printers, digital picture frames, and other visual display devices with screens of at least 4 inches measured diagonally and one or more circuit boards. Cell phones are not included in this program but may be recycled at the retail locations of cell service providers or at Goodwill. Electronic accessories are not covered by the program but are often accepted at sites that accept the covered devices listed above. See the entire program information at https://www.maine.gov/dep/waste/ewaste/

Electronics collected through this system are consolidated and sent for recycling by companies approved by the Department of Environmental Protection. Processing meets strict environmental standards and results in the reclamation of all useable materials.

Brunswick will accept most electronic waste at the Graham Rd. facility, along with certain other hazardous materials. For a list of acceptable items, see https://www.maine.gov/dep/waste/hazardouswaste/documents/uwmunicipalmaster.pdf

For residents, any staffed office of Goodwill accepts donations of computers, phones, gaming consoles, printers and related equipment in any condition. They’re justifiably proud to offer a way for community members and businesses to responsibly recycle e-waste and therefore divert it from the waste stream. They do this through two programs: “GoodTech” and “Dell ReConnect”. The first refurbishes equipment and resells it, the second recycles the equipment. By recycling your old devices in this way, you can prevent the release of toxic substances and ensure

valuable materials are recovered. You also help Goodwill, since they are paid by the manufactures for handling the recycling. For complete information, go to https://goodwillnne.org/donate/computer-donations/

2. Can shredded paper be recycled?

The short answer is NO. The shredded paper just blows around when it gets to the sorting machinery, then has to be collected and trashed.

The good news is that shredded paper can be composted, and even a backyard compost bin or compost pile will generate enough heat and moisture to do it. My shredder makes very small pieces, which compost nicely for me in either the bin or the piles.

There are also currently two commercial outfits doing curbside collection for composting in Brunswick. Garbage to Garden can take the shredded paper, but We Compost It says their system cannot handle it. I’ll have much more on curbside composting in another column next week!

Harry Hopcroft is a member of the Brunswick Recycling & Sustainability Committee. 



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