By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
When many people throw out their old computers, printers, cell phones, television sets, and DVDs or VHS players, they put them in the basement or outside their house, where regular trash is collected.
Some people still don’t know that many of these devices contain harmful substances such as mercury, cadmium, beryllium, and brominated fire retardants.
However, awareness has been spreading throughout the borough and the city, to the point that electronic waste (or E-waste) collections now take place fairly frequently.
One of the organizations that has been doing this is the Lower East Side Ecology Center, which started, as the name would imply, in that Manhattan neighborhood.
To mark its 10th anniversary, it has scheduled “events” throughout the city. In Brooklyn, an event was held in McCarren Park on Jan. 5, and one will be held this Sunday, Jan. 20, at Prospect Park West and 3rd Street, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In addition, the group has a permanent drop-off collection site for E-waste at 469 President St. in Gowanus, where people can bring their old, unwanted “devices” five days a week.
Caroline Kruse, development director for the organization, said that the large number of people who come to these events is proof that awareness of the hazardous nature of E-wastes to the environment has spread. “At our first event, in Manhattan 10 years ago, very few people showed up,” she said. “Now, when we go to Prospect Park, for example, we get between 500 and 800 people.”
The Lower East Side Ecology Center recycles the material from the old devices, except when they are new and current enough to be refurbished and given to non-profit organizations, schools and the like.
Kruse cautioned people who want to give their old computers for regular “recycling” that this may not be possible. “Many old computers and monitors are made of plastic, but it’s not the type of plastic that regular recyclers can process,” she said. “We are able to recycle this type of material.”
Asked to compare older and newer devices for hazardousness, she said both are problematic. For example, she said, “Older monitors have lead, but newer ones have mercury.”
For more information about the Lower East Side Ecology Center, visit www.lesecologycenter.org or call (212) 477-4022.