Creative solution: REMC1 partners with Heartland to dispose of e-waste generated in schools in area

Provided by Matthew Ashe/Heartland Business Systems The collected electronic waste is broken down into its constituent components at the warehouse in Wisconsin and sold in bulk.

The Regional Educational Media Center, Region 1 (REMC1) is working with a new company, Heartland Business Systems (HBS) from Wisconsin, to dispose of its electronic waste.

Electronic waste, or e-waste, is a growing issue across the globe. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, hundreds of millions of electronic products are sold across the nation each year, and as much as 2 percent of the national waste stream is electronics like computers, printers, AC adapters, phones and televisions.

The e-waste issue is complicated because there is no federal rule and laws differ from state to state. Some e-waste contains lead, mercury and other heavy metals, but it is difficult to know which without training. Most electronics have to be disassembled before their parts can be reused or recycled, but in ways that do not risk exposure to any hazardous material.

“We generate a lot of e-waste,” REMC1 director Mike Richardson said.

REMC1 and the schools they work with collect broken and outdated computers, printers, copiers and other educational and administrative electronics fairly quickly. In the past, they have partnered with Dell and Goodwill to dispose of the refuse, but they spent some time during the spring and summer of this year looking at other, more flexible options.

“There’s a lot of e-waste out there and it really shouldn’t end up in the landfill,” Richardson said.

Richardson found HBS, who fulfilled all of their requirements and then some. The service from HBS is entirely free to the schools. They have a policy of putting zero waste into the landfills, they remove school asset tags and shred hard drives to protect data, they provide certificates of destruction for the computers, and they pick up the electronics, which need to be gathered, but not packed.

“We didn’t have to centralize,” Richardson said, “It really streamlined the process.”

The HBS truck visited 11 sites around the region in a single day to collect the old electronics, Richardson said.

Then the truck brings it back to a facility in Wisconsin, where Matthew Ashe, recycling specialist, has been working on the HBS e-waste program for 15 years.

“We wanted to make it a free program,” Ashe said. “It’s been a real success.”

The company breaks the electronics down into its constituent parts — wire, plastic, metal, circuit boards, etc — and sells them in bulk for recycling. Ashe said as long as they can fill a semi truck with every visit, they will keep coming into the Upper Peninsula. The program currently runs in Wisconsin, Minnesota and parts of Illinois, and Ashe said Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is next.

Individuals with e-waste they do not want to send to a landfill can watch Goodwill’s advertisements in the paper, website and on social media for occasional e-waste collection events.

Other options for recycling e-waste and more can be found at coppercountryrecyclereuse.com.