E-cycle: quite a cache

Castoff computer equipment becomes bounty for those seeking free replacements on outdated electronics gear
People browse through electronic items during Jackson Countyís E-cycle event Saturday at the Jackson County Roads Auditorium in White City. Mail Tribune / Julia MooreJulia Moore

A few of the latest and greatest gadgets — along with lots of decrepit dinosaurs of the electronic technological revolution — were on display at the first Jackson County E-cycle event Saturday.

There was a room full of reusable, free-for-the-taking computers, monitors and other devices, along with miles of random cables, but most of the unwanted electronics that participants off-loaded were piled 6 feet high in several Dumpster-sized totes, where it will stay as it's trucked to a California warehouse for refining and recycling.

Dolores Lisman, 65, from Applegate Valley, who had been anticipating the event all week, found exactly what she came for in the reusable room — four computer monitors.

Lisman has several laptops at home, which once were used by her typing students at Rogue Community College, but that ended when the computers' screens gave out, she said. The "new" monitors she picked up Saturday will plug right in, and the students can keep pecking away, she said.

"To come in and find all of this stuff for free is just wonderful," said Lisman, who types with accuracy at a 70-words-per-minute clip. "It's good that we're keeping all of this stuff and reusing it. I hope they continue putting this on. "¦ I wouldn't have done this without it. It's just too expensive."

Lisman said she didn't bring anything to recycle this year, but plans to if the event is held again.

Mica Cardillo, 34, of Phoenix, volunteered to break down computers at the event most of the day, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to take home a few free items.

"I am looking for rare and very unusual things that we don't have," said Cardillo, referring to the Rogue Hack Lab, a Medford-based organization he helped found. "We're always short on mini-USB cables "¦ so I picked up a few of those. "¦ We try not to pay for anything we don't have to."

More than 230 people participated in the first E-cycle — either by dropping off unwanted electronics, taking away others' castoffs, or both, said Paige Prewett, director of Jackson County SMARTWorks, which helped organize the event. The tonnage of electronic waste compiled at the event had yet to be calculated, but one medium-sized semitrailer already had been filled and another was being topped off, Prewett said.

"We've had a steady stream all day. We really didn't know what to expect, so we're pleasantly surprised at how steady it's been," she said. "I think that the general consensus here is how staggering it is to see electronics come through that are considered obsolete, that are only a couple years old."

The event, held in the county auditorium near the intersection of Table Rock and Antelope roads, was headed by the Jackson County Information Technology Department. Jackson County Solid Waste also helped organize the shindig.

"I sent out an email to our employees asking if there was anything the IT department could do to directly help the community," said Mark Decker, technology director for Jackson County. "It grew into this."

One participant, Luke Bryan, didn't want anything from the reusable room and didn't bring anything to recycle.

"It's just interesting to look around and see what people use and don't use anymore," said Bryan, who described himself as "kind of tech-savvy," adding, "I am glad they're doing something like this here now."

A 40-inch, flat-screen television, a Nintendo Wii that appeared to be new, and a computer tower that also looked new were among the best items brought in, Decker said, adding that a unique aspect of the event was the opportunity to have your hard drive destroyed for $5.

Lorie Poole, a volunteer with Jackson County Master Recyclers, operated a 6-ton press used to smash the veritable computer brains. She also bashed the drives with a hammer after sending them through the press.

"I just punch the drive out, and it's not going to work anymore," said Poole, crunching through her 95th hard drive of the day.

Fifty-nine people paid to watch the process and confirm their hard drive was destroyed, she said. The money will be donated to the Jackson County Recycling Partnership, Decker said.

Poole, of Crescent City, was one of 14 Master Recyclers volunteering at the event, out of 25 volunteers in all, Prewett said.

"I am just trying to learn as much as I can so I can take it back and do something like this in my community," said Poole, who is recycle coordinator for Recology Del Norte in Crescent City.

"The hard-drive destruction turned out to be far more popular than we anticipated," Decker said. "We're just helping people make sure that these old computers they're getting rid of don't have any personal data left on them."

The electronic waste unloaded at the event will be shipped to Santa Clara-based ECS Refining, which operates a 270,000-square-foot refining facility in Stockton, Calif., where materials are broken down, sorted and reused or sold.

Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at samuelcwheeler@gmail.com.



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