The right way to recycle E-Waste.

Environmental Committee Report: Right way to recycle E-Waste.
By: Lev Chesnov,

Some of the products sold by the PSFC end up as electronic waste, such as thermometers, small lights for bikes, old inefficient incandescent bulbs, and alkaline and rechargeable batteries. Some environmentally-conscious PSFC
members take these items to local e-waste drop-off locations. These locations, found via a quick internet search, allow for the products to be recycled properly.

Many people, however, do not know two very important things -
1. How bad e-waste is for the environment, and 2. Where to find e-waste recycle drop-off
locations. What is interesting is that NYS Rechargeable Battery Recycling Act
requires retailers which sell batteries to accept them back as recycling; this act
seems to not be enforced.
Most e-waste drop off locations are hard to access, causing people to just throw
rechargeable batteries and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in the trash, which is
legal, according to the NYC Sanitation Department rules. Taking this e-waste to
the proper facilities, however, is highly recommended. Improperly disposed of e-
waste will decompose and leak into the soil and ground water, introducing
poisonous heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium into the
Another good reason to recycle e-waste is to harvest their precious metals, like
gold and platinum. This can reduce the need for mining, often done under poor
work condition and with child labor.
We at the PSFC can work together to limit the damage inflicted on our
environment by e-waste. Check out the Gowanus E-Waste Warehouse located at
469 President Street. This warehouse is the largest e-waste municipal spot in NY
State. It is part of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, a community-based environmental organization operating since 1987.
On my first visit, I recycled my old iPhone. On the second visit, I was given a
warehouse tour by co-founder and Executive Director Christine Datz-Romero.
Christine has a long history of environmental activism, pioneering composting and
e-waste programs. The warehouse has space to resell some old electronics at the
ReUse Store, a favorite of vintage lovers. If you are lucky, maybe you could find a
late 1990s vintage Apple desktop, like the legendary IMAC G3. If what you’re
looking for isn’t being sold, chances are you can rent it. The warehouse has a prop
library where the products are rented for shows and movies, like old record
players and tube TV sets, the likes of which broadcasted the Adam-12 series in
Some of the e-waste is transformed into artworks, and ends up in art galleries.
Every year the Gowanus E-waste Center provides an Artist-in-Residence program
to supporting local artists. They give them studio space in the warehouse and
supply free access to the e-waste materials.
I met the artist Andrew Jan Hauner, the current art resident at the Gowanus E-
waste warehouse. He loves to create art objects camera lenses and TV screens.
It’s the best end-use for this waste, rather than continuing to spoil the soil in
landfills. Andrew is also a child educator for a crafts program in the KoKo NYC
studio in the Open Source Gallery in South Slope.
E-waste is just as bad in the commercial sector. In most cases, superintendents
and facility workers will put CFL tubes into black garbage bags and dump it into
trash - legal or commercial property landlords must pay private contractors to
recycle e-waste. Some landlords are reluctant to pay and it’s easier to tell supers
to sneak the e-waste out into garbage bags.
I walked around Park Slope for a couple of days and took dozens of pictures of the
dumped CFL tubes in garbage cans. These CFL tubes will likely break down and
become hazardous mercury released into our air.
The NYC Department of Sanitation has certain instructions and suggestions about
proper discharging and recycling of e-waste as well as recommended drop-off
spots, but few folks follow that. You can drop off fluorescent tubes & CFL’s,
devices containing mercury at Home Depot, Ikea and Lowe’s. If you live in the
Brooklyn or Staten Island’s buildings of up to 10 units, you can request electronic
Sanitation Department’s curbside pick-up. I want to suggest for PSFC members, if
you don’t want to wait for DSNY e-waste events or make a special trip to drop-off
sites, maybe we can install a few containers, one for the alkaline/rechargeable
batteries and another for the small GFL lamps. When it fills up, our
Environmental Committee members, (me, for example) can bring it down to the
Gowanus E-waste warehouse.
Next time there is good weather and you are going with your kids to buy Brooklyn
made ice cream at the Ample Hills creamery, please, take with you couple of used
batteries, CFL lamp or an old Iphone to drop off at the Gowanus E-waste
warehouse on your way. Make a contribution for clean organic healthy non-
mercury-containing milk made ice-cream!

Information about a Sanitation Department drop-off spots:
Gowanus E-waste warehouse: