Electronic Waste Items Piling Up

Computers, printers, gaming systems, microwaves, stereo equipment and cellphones all have a limited shelf life. When it’s time to dispose of them, doing so safely and cost efficiently can be challenging for local governments.

The Moore County Board of Commissioners recently approved a three-year contract with Southern Environmental Solutions of the Carolinas to recycle local electronic waste, “e-waste” for short. 

“If it has a wire, a plug, a battery or runs on electricity, if it is something you probably aren’t going to use ever again, that is what comprises electronic waste,” said Solid Waste Director David Lambert.

State law requires local governments to establish an electronic recycling program and allocates about $5,000 in annual funding for this purpose. The county’s newly signed contract with Southern Environmental is for $110,000 per year.

“The state made this an unfunded mandate and that is part of the struggle because it costs so much,” Lambert said.

Electronics have also become more readily available, and the area’s population has expanded: two more reasons why costs are increasing.

“We are seeing greater volume,” he added. “People are cleaning out old stuff and upgrading to the next best thing.”

Moore County is also the only area — in Lambert’s experience — where e-waste is collected at each of its convenience centers. There are seven county-owned and operated recycling facilities scattered around Moore County. 

“Quite frankly, we have exceptional collection sites in terms of cleanliness, size and location. One of the values of the Solid Waste Division is to make sure our services are equitable,” Lambert said. “It would be hard to get everyone to travel to one site for e-waste.”

Once the discarded electronics are collected, they are hauled at county expense to Southern Environmental for processing. The contractor provides a $250 hauling credit, so this practice actually saves the county money.

Recycled electronics are sorted, and the county pays a per-ton cost depending on the condition of the materials. Electronics may contain a number of hazardous but also valuable or scarce materials. By dismantling them appropriately, there are reuse possibilities, and materials such as lead, mercury and other heavy metals don’t end up in landfills.

“We used to have a lot of people who wanted to dig through the collected electronics. We view this as county property, and we are responsible for it once it is dropped off,” Lambert said. “Also, items like a computer might still have some personal information on it. We are strict about not letting anyone take them from our sites.”

If the county’s e-waste haul includes broken or “scavenged” items, it costs more to recycle.

Moore County also operates a permanent household hazardous waste facility at the Eagle Springs Convenience Center, located at 364 Eagle Springs Road, where residents can take a limited number of items throughout the year. The facility accepts household hazardous waste every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Search for how to properly dispose of specific items online at https://www.moorecountync.gov/solid-waste/how-do-i-dispose-of.

Contact Laura Douglass at (910) 693-2474 or laura@thepilot.com..