Carroll County residents will have a chance tomorrow to recycle computers, television sets and other electronic devices as part of a statewide push to reuse old electronic equipment instead of dumping it in landfills.
The free event, scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Northern Landfill on Route 140 in Westminster, is sponsored by the Carroll commissioners, the Maryland Department of the Environment and several private companies, including the Houston-based Waste Management Inc., which will collect the electronics and distribute parts and materials to companies that will reuse them.
The event also is part of a six-state effort sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency to model electronic recycling programs for local governments.
Environmental officials say that proper disposal of electronics, which can pollute ground water and take up much-needed landfill space, has become a significant issue nationwide, with more equipment being purchased and replaced every year.
More than 63 million personal computers will be retired next year, and only a small portion are likely to be recycled, according to the EPA. The MDE estimates that Maryland residents dump about 150,000 tons of electronics a year into the general waste stream.
By scheduling free drop-offs in Carroll and other counties throughout Maryland, environmental officials hope to gauge residents' interest in recycling their electronics. Officials also hope the events will be successful and prompt participating counties to create full-time programs.
"This is a new way of thinking, a new culture where we have to think about the retirement of our electronics," said Regina Rochez, program manager for the MDE's planning and recycling outreach program.
"We're hoping to get data that will really help us start to answer some of the questions about the extent of this issue," said Gary L. Horst, Carroll's director of enterprise and recreation services.
Harford and many Eastern Shore counties have held similar events. Baltimore County also has planned one for Saturday as well. Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties have permanent electronic recycling programs, and Carroll officials said they would not be surprised if in several years the state were to require electronics to be separated from regular garbage.
Residents are required to separate yard waste and rubber tires from their common trash.
Dumping electronics in landfills creates several environmental problems: First, the bulky items occupy increasingly scarce landfill space. Second, potentially hazardous materials such as lead, mercury and arsenic lie in the ground, untreated, and can contaminate ground water. Finally, the products contain many valuable materials that can be reused, such as precious metals, plastic and glass.
Carroll residents may drop off television sets, computers, monitors, printers, scanners, keyboards, computer mice, external disk drives, computer speakers, modems and cables. Horst said he would consider the day a success if Carroll residents drop off 6 or 7 tons.