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Rogers teens create organization to combat e-waste

by Mary Jordan | May 3, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.
Abigail Flemging, Rogers High School, and Jackson Guthrie, Heritage High School, promote electronic recycling in Northwest Arkansas through their E-Waste Warriors effort. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Flip Putthoff)

ROGERS -- E-waste is a problem Jackson Guthrie and Abigail Fleming want to solve.

"There are so many ways for kids to get involved with big world issues like this," said Fleming, a Rogers High School junior.

The 17-year-old friends started E-waste Warriors, a community recycling organization, in October, Guthrie said.

"Covid had a lot of impact," he said. "I felt like I was really seeing a lot of good things and I wanted to join in that."

Guthrie, a Heritage High School junior, said e-waste is any electronic item that's reached the end of its useful life. E-waste includes microwaves, printers, computers, phones, cables and televisions.

Disposing of such items properly is a growing problem globally, Fleming said. The world produces as much as 50 million tons of e-waste a year, according to a 2019 report by the United Nations. Only 20% is formally recycled.

Improper disposal is an environmental concern, said Joe Tucker, vice president of eSCO Processing and Recycling in Rogers.

E-waste comprises 2% of landfill volume, but is responsible for 80% of toxic metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic leaching into water, Tucker said. It should be habitually recycled just like cardboard and glass are, Fleming said.

The students held E-waste Warriors' first recycling event Feb. 28, Guthrie said.

Six volunteers from the Rogers High Keystone Club assisted with the drive-up event, he said. Tucker's company donated a 30-foot trailer and a driver to haul it to eSCO for secure disposal or recycling, Fleming said.

"We handle all data to Department of Defense standards," Tucker said of securely destroying information stored on computers and hard drives.

Some 115 people got rid of 8,700 pounds or 4.35 tons of e-waste, Fleming said. She and Guthrie were stunned.

"We did not have a quantifiable goal," Guthrie said. "We just were hoping somebody would show up."

The response demonstrates the need for e-waste recycling in the region, he said.

Many people have lots of items tucked away in their homes and don't know of organizations such as E-waste Warriors or businesses such as eSCO through which they can safely dispose of e-waste at little or no cost, he said.

E-waste Warriors plans to have another recycling event around August, Guthrie said, hoping the organization will inspire others to do the same to create the greatest impact possible.

Tucker said he was impressed with the students' efforts in creating and conducting the event.

"I'm hoping that they keep the head of steam that they've gathered, and we'd love to support them in the future," Tucker said. "Hopefully, it can be a lasting partnership."

A processing fee of about $10 may be required for some older televisions and computers with tubes containing toxic materials, Tucker said. It's otherwise free to recycle electronics through E-waste Warriors or his business, he said.

Guthrie said he hopes to work with more businesses and organizations to help finance recycling drives.

The teen's efforts with E-waste Warriors caught the attention of the National Society of High School Scholars Foundation, which awarded him a $500 Earth Day Scholarship, said Nikki Eye, foundation scholarships and communications manager.

"His project was completely unique and set him apart from the applicant pool," Eye said. "Jackson is innovative and creative, a member of our organization and a leader of his community."

Guthrie said he was excited to receive the scholarship, which is his first and is earmarked for college textbooks.

Both students said they're college-bound after high school. They intend to continue advocating for the environment long into the future, they said.

Northwest Arkansas residents have options when it comes to disposing of e-waste. Most items require a $5 charge to cover the cost of disposal.

The Boston Mountain Solid Waste District offers permanent e-waste collection locations in Springdale, Prairie Grove and Huntsville. The district also hosts free electronics recycling events in communities throughout Washington and Madison counties, such as one planned May 14-15 at the Elkins Community Center.

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E-waste disposal sites

Northwest Arkansas residents have places to go to recycle their electronic waste. Most items require a $5 charge to cover the cost of disposal.

Boston Mountain Solid Waste District

• Springdale Recycle Center, 1809 S. Lowell Road, Springdale; open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays

• Boston Mountain Transfer Station and Recycle Center, 11398 Bond Road, Prairie Grove; open 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday

• Madison County Solid Waste and Recycling, 173 Madison 6553, Huntsville; open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday

• phone: 479-846-3005

Benton County Solid Waste District

• 5702 Brookside Road, Centerton; open 8 to 11 a.m. and noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday

• 2307 N. Arkansas St., Rogers; open 8 to 11 a.m. and noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, as well as the second and fourth Saturdays of the month

• 1108 E. Ashley St., Siloam Springs; open 8 a.m. to noon the first and third Saturday of the month

• phone: 479-795-0751

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