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Kalamazoo College


e-waste 4

The Recycling Department collects electronic waste, or "e-waste", in an attempt to further minimize the amount of waste that goes to the landfill from our campus.

E-waste is any item involving a circuit board, wiring, or plastic and metal that cannot easily be disconnected. Other items are those that have to do with electronics or electricity, or that may be hazardous if littered or thrown in the garbage, paper, cardboard, or commingle stream.  For example, improperly disposed batteries can cause fires or release dangerous acid.

Other typical e-waste items include: computers, printers, cartridges (ink or toner), cell phones, calculators, batteries (all types), electric motors, light bulbs (all types), peripherals (keyboards, mice, etc.), and wires. If you are unsure, bring it in and ask us!

It’s important to note that many electronic and electric items can be repaired and reused, even when they are no longer useful to you (just like office supplies; see our REP Room). Keep items as intact and undamaged as you can – they’re easier to reuse and recycle that way, and it’s safer!

E-waste is often composed of chemical compounds and heavy metals which are toxic to human health – everyone knows about the mercury in fluorescent light bulbs, but even simple plastics may be coated with flame retardants. While these pose little or no threat in the finished product (i.e., touching a circuit board outside of a computer is harmless, or next to harmless), if any of these items become broken (from wires to circuit boards to batteries) they can be hazardous to human and environmental health. It is critical that the college direct such items to the e-waste program instead of the trash!

 How do I recycle my e-waste?

First of all, don’t throw it in the trash or any recycling bin! Second, make sure it’s safe: if it’s a leaking ink cartridge, put it in a sealed plastic bag (preferably a Ziploc). If it’s a broken light bulb, also make sure it is contained. If it’s a battery, tape the ends so that they cannot start fires when placed in a bin with other batteries. Labeling is critical to the safety, re-use and recycling of items! Unless it’s obvious, label what you’re giving to us: let us know what the item is, and how it’s broken. This is especially important for electronics like computers, or for hazardous items like bags of batteries or light bulbs. As much as you can, try to preserve the integrity of items – this helps protect your recyclers and the environment! Third, pay attention to things people would need to know to reuse the item: does the computer have a physical problem (hardware) or a virus (software)? Is the flashlight smashed or just out of batteries? Did the keyboard have water or soda spilled on it? These questions are important ones – give us as much information as you can! Tell an e-waste recycler in person if you can, or leave a detailed note as you leave the item at a designated drop-off point.

What do we do with your e-waste?

Items that can be reused are donated to community members and organizations, or sometimes put in the REP Room or the e-waste area’s “freebies” shelf. Some items are given directly to programs that specialize in their recycling (e.g. batteries and cell phones). Others are given to certified e-waste handlers in the Southwestern Michigan Area.  Check them out: or

We do research to determine the best way to preserve fuel (and avoid carbon emissions), promote the local economy by supporting local businesses, protect worker and environmental health by only dealing with certified businesses that do not export waste to be handled in areas with lower health and pollution standards, and accomplish all of this with efficient use of funds. If you’re interested in knowing more, helping us strengthen our program, or in offering your own knowledge or expertise, contact “Recycle Rob” Townsend at