People in rural areas of Michigan have had more convenient opportunities to recycle their electronics waste since 2019, when the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) developed a recycling program for electronics waste, also called e-waste. Word about the collections got out quickly and last year alone people in rural communities recycled over 300,000 pounds of e-waste. Through the first half of 2020 — even during COVID-19 —  people have recycled some 100,000 pounds of e-waste already.

The big response did not surprise Steve Noble, EGLE’s electronics recycling specialist. “Rural communities pushed hard for a program, so we knew there was a lot of demand. EGLE’s recycling programs and grants provide a great foundation for expanding proper electronics recycling, particularly in underserved rural areas across Michigan, like the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) and northern, lower Michigan.”

EGLE’s 2019 and 2020 e-waste program resulted in a partnership between Goodwill of the U.P. and northern Wisconsin and one of Michigan’s certified electronics recyclers — Comprenew. Working together, Comprenew@Goodwill was formed which now supports electronics recycling across the U.P. As a result of that partnership, six permanent collection sites were established, and multiple collection events were held. Goodwill retails stores in Houghton, Iron Mountain, Escanaba, Sault Ste Marie, Menominee, and Marquette now have ongoing e-waste collections.

Comprenew also established a computer reuse program to assure greater access to low cost reliable computer systems and needed computer training. “Commercial computers and related equipment that are collected from hospitals and universities are repurposed through their reuse program. Residential electronics collected through recycling programs have very limited reuse value.

Schoolcraft County Conservation District also established their own program with drop-off locations in the Manistique area. An environmental group in Alger County is well into the planning process and will open two drop-off sites in the county this fall. Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and Bay Mills Indian Community have also been working with EGLE to add electronics to their recycling program.

“While COVID-19 has slowed progress in a couple locations, good progress is still being made to continue expanding proper e-waste recycling across Michigan,” says Noble.

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