VIDEO: A home (for now) for banned e-waste

The Gowanus neighborhood of  Brooklyn has long been home to recycling and scrap-metal industries. In the last few years, electronic recycling companies — like the Lower East Side Ecology Center’s E-Waste Warehouse — have also found a home in the industrial area.

The E-Waste Warehouse, managed by Samuel Huntington, sits just east of the Gowanus Canal. The 11,000 square-foot facility collects and sorts electronic waste from both companies and consumers.

In April 2011, the New York State Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act banned the landfill disposal of electronic waste for businesses and manufacturers. On January 1, 2015, this ban will be extended to individuals and households as well.

Huntington expects the E-Waste Warehouse’s operations to expand to meet the influx of discarded electronics in response to the new law. “Disposing of these machines through conventional methods is extremely hazardous for the environment and ultimately hazardous to everyone’s well-being,” he said.

Most of the material is distributed to recycling partners. But increasingly, the discarded items are refurbished and sold in the small retail section at the front of the warehouse. Many are also rented as props to film production companies.

The warehouse opened in 2012. That year, electronic waste recycling cost more than it generated in income for the Ecology Center: it spent more than $431,000 on the program, while bringing in about $88,000 in revenue from it. Huntington expects that the program will eventually pay for itself.

“The goal,” said Huntington, “is to divert as much of that material from the recycling stream into the reuse stream as possible.”

This video ran on MetroFocus, the public affairs program of Thirteen/WNET.

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