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Posted on Tue, May 3, 2011 : 5:57 a.m.

Hoarding defunct electronics? Maybe it's time to let go (at U-M's free e-waste recycling event)

By Nathan Bomey

If you've been longing to bid an environmentally friendly "adieu" to that old DVD player, laptop, TV or other electronic device, your time has come.

The University of Michigan and Ann Arbor Public Schools will host the fourth annual electronic waste recycling event later this week. Separate recycling days are planned for local residents and for local businesses and nonprofits.

Most electronic items will be accepted, including LCD monitors, keyboards, wires, CDs and DVDs, TVs, radios, game systems, cell phones, photocopiers, printers and typewriters.

Only a few items won't be accepted, including microwaves, appliances and anything with a refrigerant. (For a comprehensive list, click here.)

The free electronic waste recycling event typically attracts hundreds of people who have been unwilling to take the time to dispose of their e-waste or would prefer not to pay to do so.

"It's probably the only free option they get," said Terry Alexander, executive director of the U-M Office of Campus Sustainability. "It's really a nice thing for people to have the ability to bring things in and get rid of them pretty quickly."

In 2010, materials dropped off at the event filled 18 semi-trailers with 245 tons of waste.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that consumer electronics make up about 2 percent of solid waste handled by municipalities.

The EPA estimates that about 235 million electronic devices sold between 1998 and 2007 are currently in storage. About 82 percent of TVs, cell phones and computer-related devices are deposited into landfills as of 2007.

"I think all of us accumulate so much stuff these days that we really don't need, but it's kind of our nature to hang onto it because someday we might need it, you know?" Alexander said.

U-M partners with an outside company that donates its services to help recycle the electronics.

The electronics are sent to a recycling center elsewhere in the U.S., where they are "stripped down and sorted into different categories for recycling," Alexander said. The process ensures that equipment with hazardous materials such as lead and mercury does not end up in a landfill, where it can break down, causing dangerous chemicals to seep back into the soil and affect the environment.

"It goes off for reuse or recycling," Alexander said. "None of it goes overseas."

Computer equipment is destroyed and recycled so that any private information would not be available, although U-M still recommends erasing information from a hard drive before recycling it.

Alexander said the U-M does not make money on the event and that its spending is limited.

"The company picks up the majority of it," he said. "Our contribution is our time and effort in marketing and finding the location, negotiating with the owners of the property to make sure it's OK for us to set up and working the event."

Members of the public can drop off electronics at Pioneer High School from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 7. The university says members of the public can enter off of Main Street at the corner of West Stadium Boulevard.

Businesses and nonprofits — which are encouraged to register but are not required — can drop off equipment at the U-M Tennis & Gymnastics center parking lot at 2250 S. State St. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 5-6.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Tue, May 3, 2011 : 7:47 p.m.

I went a few years back, seeing all the things sitting on palletts was like a walk down memory lane.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

This is a lot better than the event I received email about today from the schools. That one required that electronics still work. For safety, I prefer to remove the hard drive before recycling a computer.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

A great event, but I wish they could do it more often. We can't stand having the electronics sit around too long. I recently hauled our old 27" TV down to the recycling center on Ellsworth (I would have donated it had the outer casing not fallen apart!) and due to the weight, ended up costing us $40. So, this event can really save you a bunch of money if you have a lot of stuff.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 1:31 p.m.

Glad they are doing it. Hopefully, less stuff will "fall off the truck" out on the lonely country roads now.

Boo Radley

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

I went to this event last year with a full car load of old TVs, computers, computer monitors and printers, and I was very impressed. It was extremely well organized. We drove in, stopped our car where directed, and a small army of volunteers descended on it and had it emptied an a couple of minutes. We never had to get out of the car and were on our way, minus a huge load of stuff in no time at all.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 12:32 p.m.

Very cool. I've been waiting for something like this.