New Life for Old Technology Computer Recycling Comes to Your Co-op

Where would we be without our personal computers? From news to e-mail to online shopping and financial management, they’ve brought so much convenience to our lives. Along with their associate devices such as printers and monitors, PCs have revolutionized how many of us do our work and run our lives.

There’s a downside to all the convenience and speed, however. What many people don’t know is that many computers—particularly older ones—contain lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium, and brominated fire retardants—all of which are harmful substances. And it’s not only computers, it’s anything with a circuit board—DVD players, VCRs, cell phones, fax machines and other devices. Older monitors are a particular problem because they each contain four to eight pounds of lead—installed to protect users from radiation from the CRT tube.

For years, corporations have been calling recycling firms to take away their old computers and other electronic devices. It’s a law that these commercial enterprises have to obey. Now, however, residential buildings—co-ops, condos, and rentals—are getting into the act. An 11-year-old non-profit organization that has been performing computer collection and recycling services for such major-league firms as the Federal Reserve Bank, the IRS, Deutsche Bank, NBC, Con Edison and JPMorgan Chase has been turning its attention to residential developments in the New York area.

The company is Bronx-based Per Scholas (which means “for schools,” because of the company’s training programs for computer technicians). In April 2006, the company started its Community Computer Collection Project. So far, it has scheduled or held collection/recycling events at buildings and developments throughout the city. Among them are the Amalgamated Houses in the Bronx, Penn South Mutual Redevelopment Houses in Chelsea; Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village; Morningside Gardens in Morningside Heights; the environmentally-conscious Solaire tower near Battery Park, and others. Per Scholas also has held collection events at the New School and Columbia University.

An Educated Consumer

Why recycle computers? According to Michael Rieser, who the heads up Per Scholas’s Community Computer Collection Project, while only 10 percent of the volume of the waste in landfills today comes from old computers and other electronic waste, as much as 70 percent of landfill toxicity can be linked to them.

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