LAKE PLACID - As Americans purchase more electronic devices such as computers, tablets and cell phones each year, the junk of older devices piles up and the need for recycling this "e-waste" increases.
After all, it is state law.
In the Olympic region, there are a few places to recycle the e-waste for free: the Wilmington town transfer station, the North Elba transfer station and Judi's Computer Support in Lake Placid.
Judi Latt, of Judi’s Computer Support in Lake Placid, accepts another old computer to be recycled. (Photo by Andy Flynn)
"Most of that stuff has been in people's basements for seven years or whatever," said Judi Latt, co-owner of Judi's Computer Support. "They just haven't known how to responsibly get rid of it."
New York state adopted the Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act in 2011, allowing companies like Latt's to recycle electronics at no charge to the public. The business is registered with the state Department of Environmental Conservation as a e-waste recycler and a member of the eWASTE Alliance Partner Network. A truck from Regional Computer Recycling & Recovery in Victor, near Rochester, makes a pickup every three weeks.
"It just seems to be consistent at about 3,000 pounds a month," Latt said. "I do think that after the first of the year we'll get a little more with people doing their upgrades for Christmas."
Latt will celebrate five years in business in March, and she has been accepting e-waste for four years. In the spring, she moved the business from Saranac Lake to 1991 Saranac Ave. in Lake Placid. And that's good news for business owners and full-time and seasonal residents in the Olympic village.
"We've had a couple of hotels call us in advance as they've done an upgrade," Latt said.
The reason for an e-waste recycling law boils down to the environmental impacts of throwing electronics in a landfill.
"Every monitor has 4 to 8 pounds of lead in them," Latt said.
Inside these electronic items are heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, beryllium oxide, mercury and brominated flame retardants, which can poison the soil of landfills and do harm to waste-disposal workers exposed to them.
"From what I understand is the recycling company has a refrigerator shredder or something of that nature," Latt said. "They throw all of the stuff in a shredder, shred it up, shred all the metals, get a magnet to separate the metals and then they resell the metals back to the different companies to make the parts. This company guarantees that nothing is exported."
There doesn't seem to be any definitive or predictable trends of electronics that people are recycling, according to Latt.
"We've had flat-screens forever, and people are still bringing in the big monitors, so even the flat-screen trend didn't cause everybody to recycle right away," Latt said. "They stash them away and try to figure out what to do with these big things."
Even with Microsoft ending support of its Windows XP operating system on April 8, people may not be recycling those computers.
"There hasn't been a big technology change that makes people need to throw them away," Latt said. "People have been clinging to their XP machines for a decade."
Among her recyclers, Latt has seen some people buy new computers instead of fixing ones with problems.
"I think a lot of people think that just because Windows doesn't boot, they run into trouble, that the computer's toast and they need to go and replace it," Latt said. "If you've invested a lot of money, your computer can be repaired. But I think some people take that first problem and decide that they need to replace it. And sometimes that isn't the case."
Before taking their electronic devices to the recycling center, people should be mindful of the personal data on their machines, according to Latt.
"Everybody should be worried about data being on the hard drive," Latt said. "We can take it out and hand it back to them. People just need to be aware that, as they're recycling things like cameras, there are cards in there. People will recycle stuff with a little memory chip in it."
At her shop, Latt damages the hard drives before piling the electronics in the recycling truck.
"We don't boot up the computer and wipe it, but we'll remove the hard drive and drill a hole through it to damage it and then recycle the metals," Latt said.
As of Nov. 1, Latt can no longer take CRT monitors and TVs free of charge. They are charging 40 cents per pound. The North Elba Transfer Station, however, is taking them for free.
For more information, contact Judi's Computer Support at 518-523-0011.
Peter Crowley contributed to this report.