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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Saturday’s the day to recycle electronic waste

Drop-off at Charlestown Mini-Super from 9 AM to noon
By Will Collette
Doing a great service for Charlestown:
Indie Cycle owner Phyllis Hutnak flanked by husband Tony (left)
and Mini-Super owner Charlie Beck (right)

You’ve got the next couple of days to check around the house, the basement, the garage, the shed, etc. for old electrical goods and electronics. These items are very bad for the environment when they are simply dumped in with the garbage, but have significant value when they are recycled.

Obviously, old cell phones, computers, land-line phones and such come to mind, but you can also drop-off broken electrical appliances – I’ll be dropping off two busted electric lawn-mowers that have been sitting around for years. Phyllis told me they'll take pretty much everything that has wires.

At the end of this article is a letter from Indie Cycle LLC owners Tony and Phyllis Hutnak that describes what they can take and what they can’t. They note that they must now charge for some items – tube TVs and monitors and printers and copiers – since the manufacturers no longer pay to take them back. You can still drop them off, but for a $10 fee for each item.

CLICK HERE to read about the funding issues challenging RI’s electronic waste recycling effort. Indie Cycle got a nice write up in the Providence Journal (CLICK HERE to read).

The Town of Charlestown used to allow anyone to drop off electronic waste at the transfer station for free, but the town stopped doing that over a year ago. Fortunately, Indie Cycle and the Mini-Super teamed up to fill the gap left by the town’s apathy toward the problem.

Despite all of its “environmental” rhetoric, the Town of Charlestown has never been a big supporter of recycling, going back to when the state first adopted mandatory recycling. I’m talking about the town, not the residents. The Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) which controls Charlestown town government brand of environmentalism only seems to include open space.

Each year, Charlestown comes in last or next to last among all of the state’s 39 cities and towns for the amount of tonnage of recyclable goods it sends up to the state Central Landfill in Johnston. I’ve taken the numbers apart in previous years (CLICK HERE for an example) showing how poorly Charlestown does compared to other rural towns.

After a string of last place finishes, we moved up to next to last, behind West Greenwich. Click HERE for this year’s list, but I am sure we’ll get our last place spot again.

Click image to enlarge or CLICK HERE for a
full-size version
While some of the reason why our recyclable tonnage is so low has to do with population, other rural RI towns with smaller populations than Charlestown do far better at recycling. Take for example, Block Island. With only 1,051 residents, they managed to recycle 41% more than Charlestown.

That translates into 1,142 pounds per resident on Block Island compared to a paltry 109 pounds per Charlestown resident. You’ll see similar patterns when you look at the totals for other rural towns. 

Note that EPA calculates that one ton – 2,000 pounds – of municipal waste is generated by every man, woman and child. While Block Islanders recycle more than half of that amount of waste, Charlestown residents seem to only recycle a tenth.

Block Island and Charlestown also share the fact that their populations are swelled, especially in the summer, with a huge influx of part-time residents and day-trippers. While Charlestown tried to get exempted from the state recycling mandate because of these transient visitors, Block Island’s recycling stats seems to have been boosted by them.

Block Island is, after all, an island and that gives them a much better handle on how their waste is managed. Charlestown, by contrast, has no municipal waste system other than the transfer station for which you must obtain a sticker (CLICK HERE for the town’s rules).

Only some unknown portion of the town’s waste actually goes through the transfer station process. 

For many part-time residents and transients, trash disposal is done in the form of leaving it – bagged or not – by the side of the road or in the trash cans at the beach or gas stations.

Many residents and businesses use private haulers. If you hire a private hauler, as I do, chances are that hauler doesn’t take your waste to the Charlestown transfer station – the town decided not to allow trucks to go up the road. So haulers take the waste elsewhere and the amounts of recycled goods are usually tallied to some other town.

Since Charlestown stopped taking e-waste, it no longer gets credit for any e-waste that gets recycled.
But life and politics goes on in Charlestown. Charlestown’s basic waste management plan is to make it go somewhere else, except that doesn’t work too well when it comes to trash by the roadside.

I’m sure we’ll all be hearing a lot this year in the run-up to the November elections about what great stewards of the environment the CCA Party has been. But the facts about recycling say otherwise.

Here’s the letter from Tony and Phyllis:

To All Of Our Customers,

The e-waste environment has unexpectedly changed in RI since the first of the year as 18 transfer stations have been dropped from the privatized e-waste program and manufacturer buy-back programs have been reduced.  

Due to these recent changes Indie Cycle, LLC is no longer being paid for tube TVs, monitors and printer/copiers.  We regret that Indie Cycle, LLC now has to charge a disposal fee for collecting them.  All other items (as listed on our website) such as computers, laptops, flat screens, wires, and other household electronics will still be accepted at no charge.  Therefore, we are unable to provide totally free drop off events.

We know this may present a problem to people who wish to dispose of their unwanted electronics responsibly so we have posted a list of other (free) places available to the public on our web site.  Not all household electronics are accepted at these locations.  

Indie Cycle is dedicated to protecting the environment and educating the public in responsible recycling.  Everything we collect will still be delivered to an R-2 Certified collector and our ZERO landfill policy remains in effect.  We are hoping the local communities will be responsive to our services in spite of this change and that Indie Cycle, LLC will be welcomed to continue servicing them.  

Please do not hesitate to ask any questions you may have to clarify this situation.


Tony & Phyllis Hutnak, Owners
Indie Cycle, LLC