The WIN Team

The Westerly Innovations Network

Project 2005:

Recycle and Reuse our E-Waste

In recent years, the growing pile of electronic waste, or E-Waste, has become a global crisis.  E-Waste, which consists of end-of-life consumer electronics such as computers, cell phones and rechargeable batteries, are a serious threat to human health as well as our environment if dumped into landfills or improperly recycled.  The heavy metals inside, such as lead and mercury, will eventually leak out of the landfills and pollute the groundwater, reaching both the ocean and our own water supply.  These chemicals can cause irreversible ill effects in humans, including chronic brain damage and cancer.  In Rhode Island, over 4 million computers, televisions and monitors will become trash by 2011.

Our project started with researching the topic.  We spent about two months collecting information via the internet and through public surveys.  We found out that only 12.8% of our town’s residents knew how to dispose of E-Waste.  Also, 96% of E-Waste is improperly disposed of. 

Along with the surveys, we asked residents if they had computer access at home.  This would be in line with the next stage of our project, refurbishing computers for reuse throughout the community.  We started a refurbishing program that has reused over 350 computers to date and distributed them to students in the area who needed computers.

Recycling was also a focus point of our project.  We came up with a list of possible recyclers in our area with the help of several websites, including computertakeback.com, which lists recycling companies that have signed a stewardship pledge to recycle E-Waste properly without damaging the environment.  This is necessary because today many companies pretend to recycle E-Waste, but in reality ship it out to other countries where it is then dumped.  We held a meeting with the heads of several recycling companies to see what exactly happens at the facilities.  With their help, we held a recycling drive that collected over 21,000 pounds of E-Waste, as well as set up a receptacle at our town’s transfer station that collects an average of 5,000 pounds of E-Waste per month.  So far, we have helped recycle over 200,000 pounds of E-Waste.

In addition, we spent time raising awareness about our project and the E-Waste problem.  We created flyers and posted them around town, put an advertisement in the paper, and made presentations to various audiences.  We presented to each of the five local elementary schools several times as well as the middle school.  Also, we presented to the town council in preparation for legislature regarding E-Waste.

One of the most important parts of our project was working with legislation.  We had researched legislation in other states, and discussed the necessary components of E-Waste legislation.  We found out that there was a bill being sponsored on our state regarding E-Waste.  We arranged a meeting with the legislator sponsoring the bill, Representative Art. Handy, and our district representative, Rep. Peter Lewiss, and discussed our ideas against the existing ones in the bill.  We lobbied for the bill that year, but it did not pass.  We believed this to be because it was too complicated; it called for research of the market share of computer manufacturers to determine the amount each would contribute to recycling ‘orphan’ computers, ones with now non-existing manufacturers.

We took our ideas and implemented them into a resolution.  We drafted this resolution based somewhat on existing legislature and points brought up during our meeting with Reps. Handy and Lewiss.  It simply pressed a ban on the dumping of E-Waste.  We then presented this as an ordinance to our town council.  It was unanimously passed on October 28, 2005.

We then once again lobbied for a state bill.  Since then, the bill was slightly changed.  The Westerly Town Council asked Reps. Lewiss and Algiere to sponsor our ordinance as a state bill.  Similar bills were also pushed for on the Senate side of the legislature.  We helped to pass a statewide bill to ban the dumping of E-Waste in Rhode Island.  It was passed on July 6, 2006.

Westerly Innovations Network

WIN team activities

Last Update: July 8, 2009

WESTERLY INNOVATIONS NETWORK IS A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION WITH 501(C)(3) non-profit STATUS.  ALL DONATIONS are 100 % TAX DEDUCTIBLE.

OUR UNITED WAY AGENCY NUMBER IN CONNECTICUT IS 2368, OR YOU CAN SEND donations DIRECTLY TO us at  P.O. BOX 2116, WESTERLY, RI.