Electronic Waste Competition is Here!01/02/2023 ● By Daniel Hiestand
Lane County residents interested in reducing their e-waste footprint have many options for reusing, repairing, and recycling their unwanted electronic goods. The Electronics Recycling Competition—sponsored by NextStep Recycling, Partners for Sustainable Schools, Oregon Green Schools, and Lane County—is a case in point.
The competition runs from January to Earth Day in April and invites all county elementary, middle, K8, and high schools—staff, students, and parents—to divert toxic electronics from the waste stream. Schools will compete to see which can donate the most electronic recycling materials to NextStep Recycling. Donations can include non-plastic materials, such as microwaves, non-working Christmas lights, TVs, printers, old cords and cables, cell phones, computers, and audio/visual equipment. Schools are entered into the competition based on student enrollment numbers, and winners are eligible for prizes and grant monies.
The event has proven popular, with schools collecting 14,105 pounds of electronic waste in the 2021-22 school year. The winning school, Meadow View School in the Bethel district, collected more than a third of that total at 5,145 pounds.
Jessica Ahrenholtz, assistant executive director with NextStep Recycling, said educational
outreach is crucial to the nonprofit’s work and its electronic waste reduction goals.
“Unwanted computers, monitors, and TVs—e-waste–is the fastest growing waste stream in the U.S.,” Ahrenholtz said. “We hope to encourage individuals to change their behavior and way of thinking, and NextStep puts their time and effort into this program to work towards this goal.”
Joshua Frankel, Partners for Sustainable Schools program coordinator, said the competition provides a great example of collaboration at many levels.
“This competition is a great model of a multi-generational effort between students, families, and school staff,” Frankel said. “The competition also showcases partnerships between local nonprofits, governmental agencies, schools, and dedicated parent volunteers.”
Tackling e-waste is not limited to the competition, however. Community members can drop off many unwanted electronics to NextStep Recycling (245 Jackson Street, Eugene) throughout the year, where items will either be fixed and resold at the NextStep Reuse Store or responsibly recycled. The nonprofit also coordinates free pickups for businesses and schools.
“A good portion of donations are put back into the community to those in need and with barriers to education and employment,” Ahrenholtz said.
Frankel added that the competition is a helpful way to protect the environment, keeping toxic chemicals—such as lead and mercury—out of our landfills and providing recycled materials for use in new devices.
“NextStep receives the materials and provides important job skills and volunteer opportunities,” he said. “It also inspires comradery and community when schools see how successful they can be working together.”
To learn more about the competition, visit pssogs.org.