Organization to collect used electronics

Friday, August 17, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:01 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Beginning today, Columbia residents will have a chance to donate old refrigerators, toasters or computers gathering dust in their basements to help the environment and some of their neighbors at the same time.

Electronics, clothing, appliances and more will be taken today and Saturday in the parking lot of Home Depot, 3215 Clark Lane, during the nonprofit Web Innovations & Technology Services’ first collection drive in Columbia.

Accepted items

Items that will be accepted at this weekend’s Web Innovations & Technology Services fair: • computers • printers • cables • keyboards • networking equipment • clocks • phones • televisions • blenders • irons • dishwashers • washers, dryers • toasters • DVDs, CDs • motors • lawn equipment • clothing • shoes • furnaces.

Donations will be accepted from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, according to a Columbia Public Works Department news release. Items are accepted for free with the exception of monitors and appliances, which carry a $5 fee, and televisions, which require a $10 fee. Tires, paint and hazardous materials are not accepted.

WITS President Angela Haas said volunteers are needed to unload donations from vehicles, cut wires from electronics and pass out brochures. Families of five or more who volunteer during the drive will receive a free computer system.

Haas said computers collected by WITS are refurbished by volunteers if possible and returned to the community through various programs. Children with cancer, veterans, senior citizens and people who volunteer a set number of hours for the organization are given the opportunity to access and benefit from technology. She said senior citizens are able to research health problems, children are able to complete school assignments and veterans are able to stay connected with the world.

“We’re not just talking education for a career,” Haas said. “We’re talking education for life.”

Haas said the St. Louis-based WITS has a 0 percent landfill policy and now recycles everything from cardboard to software. She said more than 3 million pounds of materials were diverted from landfills last year through WITS’s efforts, and the organization hopes to reach 4.5 million pounds in 2007.

Layli Terrill, supervisor of Columbia Waste Minimization, said the city does not have the capability to recycle electronics. The goal for the drive is to keep the materials, which often include lead or mercury, out of the landfill, Terrill said.

The 18 to 20 collection events held throughout the year in Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky are vital to WITS’s mission of reusing and recycling. The number of tractor-trailers sent to each event is determined by a variety of factors, including how many inquiries they receive from residents, Haas said.

“You can never have enough volunteers or tractor-trailers,” Haas said. “Anything over two tractor-trailers would be a success for me, but my goal for the Columbia event is eight to 10.”

WITS has held two events in Hazelwood, a town of approximately 27,000 near St. Louis, said Tom Manning, the director of Hazelwood Public Works. He said the city would probably host another event because it offers both the city and the residents convenient ways to dispose of outdated equipment.

Haas said Alternative Community Training and WITS are sponsoring the event, Home Depot is hosting the event and the city is supporting the event. For more information, contact WITS at 314-382-1650.

Haas, who also founded WITS, said one of the biggest challenges the collection drives face is educating people about the variety of items that are recyclable and WITS accepts.

“We take everything, including the kitchen sink.”

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