While some electronic equipment may be destined for the trash bin, that is
not where these items belong, as they contain toxic materials. Seeing that
they are handled in an environmentally responsible way is the job of Yale’s
Office of Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS).
Computers and other electronics used for entertainment or data storage/transfer — including cellphones, pagers, PDAs, CD players and VCRs — are considered “universal waste” because they contain mercury, and are subject to strict state regulations. The same is true of fluorescent bulbs, which have come into even greater use because they are more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs.
OEHS works with We Recycle Inc. to ensure that these items are properly stored and labeled before being taken to the company’s facility in Meriden. There, any information on the electronic equipment is wiped clean, and the items are dismantled so the glass, wires and other components can be salvaged for other industry use.
In 2006-2007 alone, OEHS helped recycle 181,672 pounds of electronics and 114,841 feet of fluorescent bulbs — and those numbers will be even higher this year, according to Brenda Armstrong, manager of OEHS.
Some of the discarded campus computers found new life and new use under a Yale-funded program that sends 12 reconstructed computers per month to two New Haven non-profits, Survivin’ in Da Hood and Concepts for Adaptive Learning, which specialize in helping low-income individuals bridge the technological divide.
To make recycling of regulated items easier for departments, OEHS will — on request — supply offices with “Technoscrap” bins, five-gallon buckets where universal waste can be placed while awaiting pick-up.
These bins are also the ideal repositories for the alkaline batteries used in so many of today’s devices, says Armstrong, noting that while the disposal of these batteries is not regulated by law in Connecticut, Yale policy calls for environmentally responsible disposal of them.
For more information about the Yale Office of Environmental Health and Safety, and to access the forms needed for proper disposal of universal waste, visit the website at www.yale.edu/oehs.