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Sylvania Classes Keep Computers Out of Landfills

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Diane Shingledecker, CAS interim department chair

Diane Shingledecker, CAS interim department chair

This Mother’s Day weekend at the Sylvania eCycle drive, PCC students will help the community stop the fastest growing waste stream in America: discarded computers and electronics.

The 2nd annual eCycle Drive takes place on Saturday, May 9, 9am to 1pm, in tandem with the SW Neighborhoods, Inc. Spring Cleanup in the parking area of the Portland Christian Center at 5700 SW Dosch Rd. The drive is free and open to the public: individuals can bring computers and monitors, plus all their old computer accessories like mice, cables, printers, keyboards, and networking devices. Sylvania students will work with Free Geek volunteers to either reuse or responsibly recycle all donations.

Diane Shingledecker, Computer Application Systems interim department chair and coordinator of the eCycling drive, says enthusiasm for electronics recycling has been a contagious influence around campus.

“People have brought things to me personally – I’ve had keyboards and monitors sitting around my office,” said Diane. “And I took them, because I was excited that they were excited! And I want people to participate even if they can’t come to the event.”

The drive got its start three years ago, when Diane’s Business Administration 131 class hosted a guest speaker from Free Geek, a computer recycling nonprofit company. The speaker explained that electronic waste contains many reusable materials, yet few facilities exist to dismantle that type of waste. If not disposed of correctly, old computers are often illegally shipped to Third World landfills, where unprotected workers separate the copper and gold from the mercury and lead.

Stacked Monitors Diane held a small, in-class eCycling drive, and the response from students was overwhelming.

“The students got so excited: they cleaned out their houses, their neighbor’s houses, and came in with carloads of old stuff,” Diane said. “Students just didn’t know they could recycle those types of things.”

Diane saw an opportunity for a larger service-learning project that would combine computer skills with community involvement.

“There was a push on campus for service-learning projects, and it seemed like if we made this a campus event, lots of people would feel like my students had,” said Diane. She added, “Everyone I talked to responded by telling me how much stuff they had in their garage. I knew that if we just gave them a chance, they would bring it in to be recycled.”

She was right – student volunteers at last year’s drive collected 177 monitors and 121 televisions. Total collections weighed almost nine tons. In addition, the drive increased awareness about this sometimes invisible issue.

“Computers don’t seem to be an area that people think of when they think of the environment,” Diane said. “We have old things that aren’t really old, and it’s great that people are starting to think twice about what happens to them.”

After the success of last year’s drive, Diane was contacted by Southwest Neighborhoods, Inc., who wanted the PCC eCycle drive to join forces with their annual Spring Cleanup Event. Diane jumped at the chance.

Computer Cases “Partnering with SWNI adds a whole new dimension: now we’re working with a large community nonprofit, and we’re able to help each other. It really broadens the scope of our project,” said Diane.

The eCycle drive and the SWNI Spring Cleanup will work together to publicize the event and collect donations. The Spring Cleanup accepts scrap metal, televisions, yard debris, furniture, and household donations on behalf of the Community Warehouse, a non-profit that helps low-income individuals and families improve their quality of life. There is a $10 suggested donation per carload.

Partnering with Free Geek and SWNI has enabled the drive to create even more service-learning opportunities; this year, ten classes will participate in the drive, working on projects ranging from marketing strategies to donation data analysis.

Diane has been pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm the college community has for eCycling.

“The drive has taken on a life of its own and it continues to grow. It’s the right time and the right environment: we’ve had some really good luck.”

About Lydia Rediske

Lydia Rediske was born in La Grande, OR and raised in the foothills of Mt. Hood. She is a graduate of St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She now lives in Portland's Brooklyn neighborhood and works as a Web Team support tech for P... more »

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