Modern electronic waste

Many have been busy with spring cleaning based on the amount of trash waiting for pick up. Remember: There are some things that should not find their way to the landfill. These include obsolete and broken electronics, fluorescent tube light bulbs, rechargeable batteries and items containing Freon, just to name a few.

Cayuga County residents are invited to participate from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at the spring Electronics “Plus” Recycling event at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, 1879 W. Genesee St. Road, Aurelius. More information about what specific items will be accepted can be found at cayugacounty.us/699/solid-waste-management-and-recycling under the "Earth Week Collection Event Flyer."

Perhaps you are wondering what the "plus” includes. Most electronics items will be accepted for free, including any size flat-screen TV. Due to increased disposal fees, a $10 donation will be requested for small and medium TVs and computer monitors that have cathode ray tubes (CRT), and $20 will be requested for older console and large projection screen TVs.

In addition to the traditional electronics, including microwave ovens, small Freon appliances weighing less than 40 pounds will be accepted at no charge thanks to NUCOR Steel. Fluorescent tube light bulbs and ballasts will also be accepted for recycling at no charge due to partial funding from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, as they contain mercury that can be released into the environment if broken.

Wondering what to do with the winter clothing you are thinking about swapping out for spring and summer clothing? According to the nonprofit Council for Textile Recycling, the average U.S. citizen disposes of approximately 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles, which includes footwear, accessories, towels, bedding, draperies, etc. each year, and almost all of it can be recycled!

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the textile recycling industry recycles about 3.8 billion pounds of textile waste each year, but this only accounts for 15% of all textile waste. The other 85%, or 21 billion pounds, ends up in landfills each year. The textile waste uses about 5% of all landfill space, which is both expensive and quickly diminishing.

Since the mid-1940s, charities and the textile recycling industry have repurposed and recycled billions of pounds of clothing, household textiles, shoes and accessories. Did you realize that one pair of shoes weighs about 1 pound? So do three t-shirts, a bed sheet, a dress, several items of children’s clothing, even a backpack. Belts, purses, stuffed animals and sneakers are also able to be recycled.

Locally, we have been recycling plastic, aluminum and metals, and cardboard for years, so it almost seems second nature to many. Now we need to consider the value in recycling unwanted clothing and household textiles. There are various opportunities to recycles textiles; we just have to look. Both for-profit and nonprofit organizations will accept textiles. What is placed in the bins is sorted and can be resold or sent to developing countries.

Items that cannot be reused in their original form because they are ripped or stained can be repurposed into industrial rags, insulation, stuffing for upholstery, carpet padding and sometimes paper products. According to CRT, 45% of the collected textiles are exported to other countries as secondhand clothing; 30% is recycled and turned into wiping rags that are used in industrial settings and as absorbents; 20% is recycled into fibers used to make insulation, carpet padding and materials used by the automotive industry; and the remaining 5% is waste.

Textiles that find their way into landfills, even those made with natural fibers, do not degrade under landfill conditions because there is no oxygen and sunlight to aid in the decomposition process.

You can start to make a difference by collecting your clean and dry textiles for recycling and bringing them Saturday, May 18, to the spring Electronics “Plus” Recycling event at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, where the Rescue Mission will be on hand to accept your donation. The event begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 1 p.m., rain or shine. Be sure to pair shoes by tying them together, and pair socks and other items that can and should be paired.

If you are unable to make the May 18 event, seek local donation bins to drop your used clothing and other textiles for recycling and repurposing. You will be helping local nonprofits generate needed income for their programs and mission, as well as helping save precious landfill space and reducing the impact on the environment.

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Judy Wright is the senior agriculture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County. For more information, visit senecacountycce.org or call (315) 539-9251 ext. 109.