Finding a place to junk “old-school” electronics

Dropping off a TV, Mel Gonzalez, left, hands off his e-waste to Pedro Farias. E-waste events collect electronic items, which include computer monitors.
Shaun Ho / The Collegian

Does an ice machine qualify as electronic waste? How about a toaster? These questions sometimes left Alexander Moreno stumped as he stood with four co-workers in Parking Lot C, located near the Smittcamp Alumni House, Saturday morning.

Though the day was pretty slow, Moreno and his colleagues kept busy answering questions and unloading everything from computer monitors to old fax machines — right into the Fresno State parking lot.

The five helped with the university-sponsored Electronic Waste Drop-off Event, and even after eight similar events held on campus since January 2006, the workers were surprised at the questions they were asked.

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“A toaster oven is not electronic,� said Moreno, a temporary worker. “They think [we’re accepting] basic waste, but it has got to have something electronic that has a brain.�

Other out-of-place items included an old ice machine, vacuum cleaners and various household appliances.

Misunderstandings stem from a state law passed in February 2006 forbidding households to trash electronic items that contain materials that can be hazardous if not disposed of properly.

To give the community an affordable and easy place to get rid of the waste, the university’s Environmental Health and Safety department partnered with Electronic Recyclers International.

Since then, the campus e-waste events have collected more than 230,000 pounds of junk.

Lisa Kao, the department’s Environmental Quality Manager, put that number into perspective.

“A computer tower is usually only 25 to 30 pounds,� Kao said.

The collected waste so far doesn’t include Saturday’s results, which will not be available until later this week.

Kao estimated that fewer than 100 people came to the most recent event, which ran from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. It was a slow day compared to past events, including the March 24 date that saw twice as many people participate.

The relatively low turnout may have had more to do with another environmental event being held at the same time, rather than a diminishing need.

Saturday was Earth Day, and the occasion was being celebrated in downtown Fresno. Another drop-off
location for electronic waste downtown was part of that celebration.

Despite the slow day, temporary worker Ray Gonzalez said events like this would always be needed.

“Buy something new, throw something old away,� Gonzalez said. “[People are always] replacing it with new stuff.�

Some people arrived with a whole car full of e-waste.

Jocelyn Ward opened her trunk to reveal 232 lbs. worth of printers, computers and more.

Ward said she had seen the news of the event on the Internet and thought that it was the perfect solution to her problem.

“[My office] was looking to get rid of our e-waste,� Ward said. “We got new computers.�

Some worried that information might “leak out� from their computers.

“You don’t know what’s on there,� said Debbie Crawford, a Fresno State alumna.

Crawford said she thought there was not any personal information left on it, but that it’s hard to be sure.
“They assured me that it is shredded,� Crawford said.

Kao confirmed that all e-waste products are destroyed, and said that sometimes people bring in things that she wished wouldn’t have had to be destroyed.

“A really old television, the old-reel recording stereos,� Kao said. “Some you may have wanted to put in a museum. There is no reason to tear it apart if it still works.�

But when Jaime Horio dropped off an Audiovox cell phone, one of the workers marveled at how big the phone was and called it “old school.�

“That tells us about today’s society,� Kao said. “Something that is 5 years old is ‘old school.’ Things are getting small and smaller.�

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