City of Durango’s semi-annual electronics recycling event a welcome success story

Twice a year, the city of Durango holds an event to allow local residents to recycle old electronic equipment. It is a popular program for all the right reasons, one in which city officials can take well-deserved pride.

There are several reasons to recycle electronic equipment – all of which can be summed up simply by saying it is the right thing to do. Not only do electronic devices typically contain a lot of non-biodegradable plastics, but they also use quite a bit of metal, much of which can and should be used again. Moreover, they also can contain a host of toxic substances that we are better off keeping out of our landfills and away from any groundwater.

And area residents have responded with enthusiasm. The city has been having these two-day recycling events since 2004. That first year, the city held one two-day collection and took in 75,000 pounds of electronics to be recycled.

In recent years, the city has gone to holding two-day collections in both spring and fall. The electronic recycling held last month brought in more than 106,000 pounds of material and raised the total for 2012 to more than 188,000 pounds. Overall, in the nine years the city has been conducting electronics recycling, the total amount collected has topped 1.12 million pounds.

The city’s sustainability coordinator, Mary Beth Miles, told the Herald that November’s collections came from “about 700 participants” and included “550 computer monitors, 425 television sets, and a variety of other equipment.” That is a lot of potentially hazardous junk that will not be taking up space in a local landfill or polluting Southwest Colorado – and will be put to further use.

Those numbers also suggest how eager residents of Southwest Colorado are to be environmentally responsible. People from Pagosa Springs, Mancos, Dolores, and, of course, La Plata County all take part.

The stuff they turn in is handled with care. Natural Evolution of Tulsa, Okla., does the actual collection work. It dismantles everything and either cleans or destroys any hard drives or other data-storage devices to protect privacy. In the end, nothing goes to a landfill.

The service is not free. People dropping off electronic devices to be recycled are charged a fee, which varies by the type of equipment. Televisions 27 inches and larger are the most expensive at $25. (But then an old 27-inch TV probably takes up the better part of a cubic yard of a landfill.)

Smaller televisions, monitors and cathode-ray tubes are $15. Vacuum cleaners and microwave ovens are $5, but nothing else tops that. A keyboard or mouse, for example, is $1. So are digital cameras, chargers, smartphones and MP3 players. Cellphone and laptop batteries are $2, while power cords and cables are free.

Unless replacing an entire motel’s worth of old televisions, it is unlikely anyone will run into too much cost. Even then, though, given all that is involved, the fees are not unreasonable – an idea reinforced by the fact that so many people lined up in part to pay them.

The electronics-recycling program is an excellent effort. It is good for the environment, good for landfills, reasonably inexpensive and enthusiastically well-used. All of that speaks well of this community.