Big old TVs help Morris win e-waste battle
The challenge was issued, the competition was stiff. But the Northwest Corner prevailed. Unlike Kermit the frog, folks here find it’s easy being green.Literally tons of unwanted electronic equipment — e-waste — was collected in towns across the state between Oct. 1 and Nov. 15, America Recycles Day. WeRecycle!, one of the few companies in Connecticut that recycles e-waste, sponsored City Showdown. There were valuable prizes, and a goal to raise awareness in the wake of a state law that took effect Jan. 1 that prohibits electronics from being tossed in the trash. Nearly all of it is recyclable plastic, metal and glass. Batteries can pose a threat to the environment if not disposed of properly.E-waste from each of 91 participating towns was collected and weighed. The winner would be the town with the highest weight per capita.In this area, Cornwall, Falls Village, Kent and Norfolk participated. Nearby Morris came in first, collecting 10.7 tons (9.11 pounds per resident).Kent was second, with more tonnage at 11.9, but more people to divide it by, ending up with 8.03 pounds per person.Cornwall was third, with 4.2 tons and 5.59 pounds per person.Norfolk was fourth with 3.6 tons and 4.39 pounds per capita.Falls Village was in the top third with 1.3 tons and 2.28 pounds.“The Northwest Corner really did its share,” said Resa Dimino, director of Legislative Programs for WeRecycle! “There was a definite increase in the volume of e-waste during the contest. We were really pleased with the response, especially the winners, who did a significant amount of outreach and education, which were part of our goals.”Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams spends a good part of his weekend at the transfer station. It is only open on weekends, allowing him to get to see and talk with a fair share of the population. He undertook promoting the contest with great vigor. “I promoted it big at the transfer station in talking to people, and in my monthly newsletter, that goes out to close to 1,100 people.”It got their attention with Uncle Sam saying, “We want you, and your e-waste,” and the Statue of Liberty beseeching residents to bring their tired, their hungry, their e-waste.“We had fun with it,” Adams said, adding that towns are required under the new law not only to accept e-waste for recycling, but to accept it from residents who don’t have transfer station stickers.Televisions seemed to make a big difference. Dimino said the more affluent communities, where televisions and computer monitors are typically upgraded more often, recycled a lot of them. They tend to be far heavier than DVD players and computer keyboards and mice.“We had a lot of those big screen TVs,” Adams said. “People have been waiting for a chance to get rid of them. People bring older TVs and say they still work, but no one wants them. They are really heavy. And the last weekend of the contest, we got 20 TVs.”There was a bit of controversy over that last collection. It was not clear if it was counted toward Kent’s total. Adams said it appears it was. Dimino confirmed that, and said that it would still not have been enough to boost the per capita weight past Morris.In Cornwall, Transfer Station Supervisor Steve O’Neil said he was not surprised how well residents there stepped up to the plate. “We had a great time with it,” he said. “The important thing is that we are recycling, and whatever gets people motivated is good.”He said he had heard Cornwall was considered the town to beat, which may have sparked bigger efforts elsewhere. There was a lot of theorizing, and had there been betting, Kent would have been favored because of its three prep schools, which one might presume produce significant e-waste, as well as promoting their own recycling programs.Prizes included cash for each town: $3,000 for Morris, $2,000 for Kent and $1,000 for Cornwall. It is up to the selectmen in each town to decide how to spend it, as long as it serves an educational purpose. Dimino offered as an example scholarships for students pursuing environmental education. Transfer station workers get their own rewards. Morris won a makeover of a particular area of the facility — maybe an office or recycling center. Kent gets $2,000 to spend on new electronics. They motivated themselves early on with a wish list, which includes a digital platform scale for bulky waste, a traffic counter and a programmable message sign.Cornwall gets a sports ticket package. Whoever uses the six tickets will get to choose from University of Connecticut football or basketball and Connecticut Whale, Bridgeport Sound Tigers or Danbury Whalers hockey.WeRecycle! plans to hold a similar contest next year. Dimino said it will be tweaked a bit to get more involvement and make it more competitive across the state.Hold onto that e-waste.