If you're a Scott County resident with an old computer or some other kind of electronic gear languishing in your basement, you'll soon have an opportunity to get rid of it in an environmentally safe way.

The Waste Commission of Scott County is sponsoring a one-time, drop-off collection event for household "e-waste" from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at the Scott Area Recycling Center, 5640 Carey Ave., Davenport. (This is north of 53rd Street, near Hamilton Technical College).

Take your stuff to the drop-off site and be done with it!

All "e-waste" — defined as those items that have a circuit board or tubes will be accepted for free. This includes computers, keyboards, CD players, cell phones, copiers, TVs, VCRs, radios, tape recorders, electric typewriters, adding machines, CD players, scanners and printers.

Also, adding machines, audiovisual equipment, calculators, cassette recorders, computer speakers, CPUs, dictaphones, digital cameras, electronic mice, stereo receivers and video game equipment.

The waste commission's goal is to recycle as much of this material as possible — either by giving away useable equipment to not-for-profit groups or by "de-manufacturing" the items and sending the parts such as lead, precious metals or glass to businesses that can use them over, Anne Brockway, communications coordinator, said.

Any kind of recycling reduces the overall waste stream but electronic recycling is particularly important because many items contain toxic substances such as mercury or lead. Computer monitors contain seven pounds of lead, for example, Brockway said.

The commission is sponsoring the one-time collection day because it wants to get a large supply of material to work with over the summer, she said. Additional personnel will be hired depending on the amount of material collected.

Later this year, the commission hopes to have an on-going e-waste recycling program in place for Davenport and Bettendorf residents.

As it is now, residents simply put their items in with their garbage and they are buried in the landfill. Brockway hopes an arrangement can be worked out with the cities of Davenport and Bettendorf in which electronic waste is picked up separately so that it can be diverted for recycling.

Flyers announcing the drop-off were mailed last week to all Scott County residents, prompting more than a dozen phone calls, largely from people wondering if they could have some of the cast-offs for themselves. The answer to that is "no," as that would get too cumbersome, Brockway said.

How much e-waste does the commission expect to receive? Brockway said she has no idea — "that's kind of a wild card" — but everyone who shows up will average about 100 pounds each, based on the experience of other cities, she said.

About 20 waste commission employees will be working that day, and they've enlisted help from the Davenport West High School football team.

If you have questions, call the commission at 381-1330.

The one-day drop-off opportunity is for residents only — no businesses. Scott County already has a e-waste recycling program for businesses, but there is a charge for that. Charges range from $1 for the disposal of a dot-matrix printer to $11 for the disposal of a monitor.

Some equipment takes two or three minutes to dismantle, while some takes a half-hour. Ten minutes is about average, Dan Mickelsen, the special waste coordinator, said.

The cathode-ray tubes in the monitors go to a recovery facility in Missouri that recycles the lead. The circuit boards and wiring are sold to a business in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that grinds and smelts them to recover the precious metals.

For now, the plastic cases are buried in the landfill, but Mickelsen hopes that changes in the near future. E-recycling is a relatively young field but people are constantly trying to find new ways to use old things, he said.


Elsewhere in the Quad-City region, Clinton County has a residential e-waste recycling program already in place. Residents can drop their items off at no cost at the waste agency, 4292 220th St., any time during business hours, which are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and 7:30 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

Muscatine and Rock Island counties do not currently have an e-waste recycling program.

Residential e-waste is not regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, so there's no law against disposing of these materials — even those containing hazardous substances — in landfills.

The National Safety Council says that by 2005, 350 million computers will have reached obsolescence, with at least 55 million of them expected to end up in landfills.

Alma Gaul can be contacted at (563) 383-2324 or agaul@qctimes.com