Ask the Mayor: Who Runs the County E-Cycling Program?
Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the questions submitted to his staff.
Submit your own questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa at [email protected], 270-7855 or mail them to 200 S. High Street, 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793.
Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the “Ask the Mayor” column.
Q: A few weeks ago, I heard that the county-funded e-cycling program would be holding a special post-holiday cleanup day for unwanted electronics. Who runs the program and what happens to the materials? Are they destroyed or refurbished?
A. The county’s e-cycling program, which is funded through the Department of Environmental Management, is operated by Habitat for Humanity and managed by Marty McMahon.
On average, e-cycling collects between 120,000 and 160,000 pounds of used electronics each month and ships off about one 40-foot shipping container each week.
Only about 1% of the items actually work—mostly televisions and computer systems. When possible, those items are donated to nonprofits, such as this past Christmas when more than four dozen laptops were given to the Friends of the Children’s Justice Center for distribution to foster children.
The remainder of the materials—about 99%—are shipped to URT, an electronics processor in Oregon. URT is fully licensed and permitted, and is, in fact, the electronics processor for the state of Oregon, recycling an average of 20 million pounds a year from the state.
At URT the basic components are separated and sold on the commodities market to the highest bidder, just like other raw materials. Parts of plastic, copper, steel, glass, aluminum and the like are shredded into bits, and put into large canvas bags the size of a cube made of standard pallets.
These bags are sent to factories that can re-melt the metals and plastics, and use them as raw material in new items.
Precious metals, usually found on circuit board,s such as gold and silver, are extracted and sold on the commodities markets. The price helps offset the total cost of the trucking/shipping/processing system.