Pulling the plug on ‘e-waste’


A discarded Television and stand was dumped on the side of Horsepond Road near Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Discarded electronics, also known as e-waste, don’t always find their way to a suitable destination.

Recent letters to the editor expressed frustration about abandoned television sets, computers and other refuse dumped on the roadside throughout the state.

While any trash on the side of the road is troubling, electronics are particularly so.

According to the EPA, many of today’s consumer electronics contain toxic chemicals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, polybrominated flame retardants, barium and lithium.

The EPA also notes that properly recycling electronics helps reduce pollution that would be generated while manufacturing a new product and the need to extract valuable and limited virgin resources.

Abandoned electronics on the roadside usually become DelDOT’s problem.

“There’s no special policy regarding discarded TVs, but we do on occasion — it’s not something that happens every day — have to pick up an old TV on the side of the road,” said DelDOT spokesman Bud Freel,

From there, it’s often stored on a lot until it can be taken to one of the recycling drop-off points managed by the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA).

“Cleaning up the roadways is one of DelDOT’s responsibilities and we work with them to deal with whatever material they pick up,” said Michael Parkowski, chief of business and governmental services for DSWA. “Unfortunately, if it’s dumped on someone’s property, that person often becomes responsible.”

There are a few methods — most of them free for Delaware residents — for properly disposing of e-waste. Mr. Parkowski suggests the most convenient way is often through a retailer where a new replacement electronic is being purchased.

“A lot of retail stores like Best Buy or hhgregg will take old items back when you buy a new one, especially with TVs,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll charge a small fee depending on the program. Almost all cell phone companies offer free disposal on return programs.”

If the e-waste being discarded is still functional, it may be eligible for donation, depending on its age and state of repair.

“Goodwill still takes electronics sometimes and the Salvation Army will often take TVs and computers that are still in decent shape,” said Mr. Parkowski.

What residents shouldn’t do is drop electronics in their trash or recycling bins for curbside pickup.

“Some trash haulers will take electronics, but if you’re putting it out on the curb, it’s going into the trash,” Mr. Parkowski said. “They’re not sorting electronics at the curb. You should never put electronics in your single stream bins — they will just go on to become contaminants.”

DSWA offers several free disposal options to residents. As of this summer, its program will grow substantially.

“Through the DSWA, you can take it to one of the dropoff points once per week — we have one in each county.” said Mr. Parkowski. “Also, spring through fall, we have Saturday events that rotate around the state and set up at various locations.”

Year round, residents can drop e-waste off, free of charge, at Jones Crossroads Landfill in Georgetown on Mondays, the Delaware Recycling Center in New Castle on Wednesdays and Cheswold Collection Station in Dover on Fridays. The Saturday locations, when they open in the spring, vary but can be found at dswa.com/programs/electronic-goods/.

“This summer, we’ll be making a change where electronic recycling will be available at those three county locations six days per week,” said Mr. Parkowski.

He noted that the DSWA is shooting to make that change by July 1 in Sussex County, but it may start at the Dover location as early as April. DSWA’s website will offer updates.

The umbrella of what constitutes e-waste is “broad,” said Mr. Parkowski. But there are some exceptions. Dehumidifiers, freezers, refrigerators and air conditioners are not accepted.

“We can’t take things with freon,” he said. “Typically, you have to take those things to a landfill where they have special area with a technician who can drain the freon. Again, retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s take them too.”

What does Delaware do with e-waste?

According to DSWA data, last year they collected 1.9 million pounds of electronics. Some of the larger items were counted — they collected 15,876 TV sets, 16,930 laptops and desktop computers, and 6,507 monitors.

“The state’s numbers are going to be a bit higher because retailers do handle a fair amount themselves. But that’s how much we collected in 2016,” said Mr. Parkowski. “It’s been up and down. But last year was a little lighter than usual. I expect that we’ll see more material this year once we go to a six-days per week drop-off.”

From the collection sites, the DSWA pays a fee to a company called Ecovanta to haul away and fully recycle the state’s collected e-waste.

“They’re based in the south side of Philadelphia,” said Mr. Parkowski. “They have a complete disassembling and shredding facility for certain kinds of electronics. They sort all the different metals and plastics which all eventually go back to market.”

Where to dump electronics

On specified days year-round, Delaware residents can drop off their e-waste at one of three DSWA collections sites throughout the state free of charge:

• Monday: Jones Crossroads Landfill, 28560 Landfill Lane in Georgetown

• Wednesday: Delaware Recycling Center, 1101 Lambson Lane in New Castle

• Friday: Cheswold Collection Station, 54 Fork Branch Road in Dover

Spring through fall, the DSWA offers special Saturday drop-off sites at various locations throughout the state. These dates and times can be found at dswa.com/programs/electronic-goods/.

This summer, the DSWA will be expanding their program to include six days per week drop-off at the above locations. Their website will be updated when this change is in effect.


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