Return of the Lutheran Electric Cycle – GREAT BEND TRIBUNE

Old electronics were already piling up in the trailer and a reasonably sized pile of shavings sprouted on the table as members of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Great Bend held an electronics recycling event on Saturday.

The pandemic caused a three-year hiatus to the annual event that had been held every May to collect thousands of pounds of e-waste from the community since 2014.

Saturday’s weather was overcast and a little windy, but that’s normal, St. Mark’s pastor Adam Wutaka noted.

“It’s been three years since we last did this due to COVID, but that’s typical weather for our e-bike day,” he said. “Actually, it’s actually a nice day because it’s not wet.”

Through the event, the church is working in partnership with the Barton County Landfill, which locates a trailer to provide a one-day drop-off point inside the community. “People can donate these things for free to the landfill just about anytime,” Pastor Wutaka said. “But the landfill people are happy that this kind of focus is on e-bikes and it’s kind of a matter of convenience for people.

“We’ve been gone for a while, so this year we might be fuller than usual.”

Anything electronic, such as cell phones, computers and accessories, charger cords, microwaves and VCRs, is accepted. “We already have an old turntable and a DVD-VCR combo,” he says.

The elements are disassembled to separate the various components, such as hard drives, chips and outer coverings.

“When people bring computers with hard drives, we take them out and return them if they want them,” Pastor Wutaka explained. “Otherwise, we disassemble and destroy the drive.”

Pastor Wutaka noted that much of the material used in electronics manufacturing is in limited supply. “We heard about the chip shortage; it could be COVID or the supply chain or it could be a shortage of raw materials. There really is a market for salvaging old electronics, with places that process them and recover rare earth metals. These elements include lanthanum, cedrium, neodymium and terbium and can be extremely expensive to extract and refine from a raw state. Salvageable but expensive elements such as aluminum, copper, gold, silver and ferrous metals are also used in electronics.

Additionally, some of the components may contain toxic elements that shouldn’t take up space in a landfill, he said.

Toxic elements include mercury, lead, cadmium, flame retardants, battery acids, barium and lithium.

“We don’t want these things sitting in a landfill and taking up space,” he said.

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