E-waste Recycling Day sees big turnout in Houlton

HOULTON, Maine — A long line of vehicles looped around the parking lot of St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Saturday, Sept. 12, each carrying old computers, televisions, desktop printers and other pieces of old technology to be recycled. 

It was the fifth consecutive year the event was held at the church by the Houlton Rotary Club. People did not leave their vehicles, in keeping with social distancing guidelines, while volunteers from the Rotary Club wearing masks helped unload any and all technology they had into large cardboard boxes. The boxes were then loaded into tractor-trailer units and with forklifts to be taken to Brewer-based Electronics End LLC.

“We take it back to our plants in Brewer and sort through it,” said Bruce Jacobs, president and owner of Electronics End. “We take apart all the components and try to send those to refineries for reclaiming any precious metals that might be in there.”

The event was put together by a committee of several Houlton Rotary Club members. Rotary members also served as volunteers for the event, which has been held at St. Mary’s at the same date and time for the past five years. 

More than 300,000 pounds of electronics, or more than 150 tons, have been recycled in the previous four years of e-waste recycling days, according to Matt Randolph, one of the committee members responsible for putting the event together.

“It’s incredible, just incredible,” said Randolph. “Imagine how many times [that] could be done in a large community, like a Boston or New York City.” 

The recycling is seen as important due to the amount of toxic waste discarded electronics, or e-waste, account for. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, while e-waste makes up for only 2 percent of trash in landfills, it makes up 70 percent of all toxic waste, due to the presence of heavy metals, such as cadmium and beryllium. 

“The real thrust here for us is to get electronics out of the landfill, get it out of the streams and rivers,” Randolph said. “Doing it this way, we get to recycle it and put it back in the manufacturing system.” 

In addition to the Houlton location, several other locations for e-waste recycling are held in Maine with Electronics End, such as in Ellsworth and Belfast. In addition to the Rotary Club, the Houlton event is also done in partnership with Aid for Kids, a non-profit humanitarian aid organization based in Houlton.

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