By Monica Chapman
Going once! Going twice! Or if that fails -- going to a place where it will do no harm.
The Ohio University Moving and Surplus Department sponsors a quarterly surplus auction, which is one way electronic outcasts and other items find their way to being reused. What doesn't sell will go to a new recycling vendor that is helping Ohio University save money and protect the environment.
"It all has to go," Gary Dicken, director of Property Management and University Moving Services, said of the hundreds of items for sale at this Saturday's event. From office supplies to automobiles, Dicken's inventory includes electronic waste of all sorts. Between 150 and 200 bargain hunters from around the country are expected to be present for the bidding, which will kick off at 9 a.m. in Building 9 at The Ridges.
The goal is to keep electronic waste and other items from becoming environmental problems or unnecessary landfillers.
"That's our main charge: to re-circulate and reuse the items. We do this within the university first, then get it out to area schools and non-profits, and then take it to public sale. We want to keep as much of it out of the landfills as possible. We are pretty successful at that," Dicken said.
"We've had them come as far as Texas in the southwest and as far as Connecticut on the east coast. It just depends on the items being sold," adds Dicken, who has been organizing the quarterly auctions since 1996.
At many of the past surplus auctions, the university has successfully eliminated 100 percent of its used electronics. But this year, Dicken has doubts about the semi-load of CRT monitors that sits in one of The Ridges' storage facilities.
So what will become of the electronic waste (or e-waste) that is left unsold at the end of the day? And what about the additional electronic waste -- an estimated 50 tons of e-waste according to Manager of Campus Recycling and Refuse Ed Newman -- that is discarded by the university each year?
A new company has contracted with Ohio University to properly dispense with e-waste and other "universal waste," a federal designation given to items that contain trace amounts of toxic heavy metals such as mercury, lead and alkaline. If released into the environment, these metals can contaminate the food chain, threatening the health of humans and animals. Batteries, fluorescent lamps, pesticides and all mercury-containing equipment fall under the umbrella of universal waste and require special disposal procedures due to their toxic make-up.
Since universal waste regulations have been put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency, the university has relied on multiple vendors to dispose of the various categories of universal waste. This past year, Facilities Management determined it would save money by utilizing a single vendor to handle it all. USA Lamp & Ballast Recycling Inc. responded to the university's request for proposals, and the contract was awarded on April 23.
"Given the amount of universal waste items that (Ohio University) generates, we have to meet the EPA regulations, and we need to ensure that we get the best price for this service," said Steve Mack, director of Building and Grounds Services. "(USA Lamp & Ballast Recycling) had a combination of the best price, services available and experience with colleges and universities."
The cost of these services will vary depending on the quantities of waste handled. If the semi-load of CRT monitors is left untouched, Dickens estimates the pick-up and disposal by USA Lamp & Ballast Recycling will cost between $15,000 and $16,000.
But the cost hasn't changed Dickens' high regard for the company and his confidence in its ability to ensure Ohio University's environmental stewardship.
"[The company] provided us documentation of how they handle the materials and where it goes throughout the process of the recycling program. We feel very confident that they are following the guidelines as set forth by the EPA."