Mountain View Voice

News - June 25, 2010

Money for old monitors

Schools gets cash for clunker computers

By Nick Veronin

Computers, computer monitors, televisions, printers and overhead projectors are among the 60 items of e-waste that Mountain View elementary and middle schools have to throw away.

Only it's not that simple, said Jon Aker, director of technology for the Mountain View Whisman School District. Laws prohibit tossing used electronics in the landfill, as they are chock-full of toxic chemicals and heavy and precious metals.

Aker has enlisted the help of e-Cycle, a company that will come pick up the district's outmoded and broken electronics, salvage the reusable parts and then dispose of whatever can't be repurposed. The Livermore-based company pays the district a small sum for its unwanted electronics.

"It's usually about $100 or so," Aker said.

It's a far cry from when he used to work for a school district in Campbell and was charged for disposal of e-waste.

Sellam Ismail, the owner and sole employee of e-Cycle, said he got into the business in 2003 after a series of laws were passed in California mandating that certain electronics not be thrown in the dump.

Ismail said televisions and computer monitors using cathode ray tubes contain lead, and that most internal computer components are treated with bromide, a fire retardant that has been linked to health problems in humans. Mercury is also found in many electronics, he said.

The Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 imposes taxes on certain devices, including several types of computer and television monitors, laptops and portable DVD players. The tax revenue underwrites the cost of safe disposal.

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