Raising recycling awareness

Greeno poses for the camera in front of large bundle of recycled wires.Curt Greeno, president of Dynamic Recycling, along with his business partner, Miles Harter, earned Wisconsin’s Small Business Person of the Year Award. Greeno says while he and Harter accepted the award, it really reflects the work of many great people they’ve hired since starting the business in 2007.

Alum — small business person of the year — shares what’s collecting dust in our closet and where it should go

Admit it — taking up space in your desk drawers and closets corners are old cell phones, dead batteries and tangled up computer cords for equipment you no longer own.

The good news is spring is one of the best times for cleaning. But don’t just pitch these items. It is much more environmentally friendly — and sometimes even law-abiding and safe — to recycle them.

Curt Greeno, ’06, president of Dynamic Recycling, provided a list of five common things people are not always recycling that they should be. Greeno not only knows about recycling, he also understands how to run a small business.

He and Miles Harter, CEO of Dynamic Recycling, were named Wisconsin’s top small business people of the year by the U.S. Small Business Administration. They accepted the award in April in Washington, D.C. Greeno and Harter built Dynamic Recycling from the ground up. The company employs 220 full-time employees between three locations: Nashville, Tenn.; La Crosse/Onalaska and Minneapolis.

The list:

1.Old cell phones. Did you know there is gold in your smartphone? When a phone enters the smelter, gold and other precious metals can be extracted and put into new products such as wiring or plating. So, if not planning to donate your old phone, give it a better afterlife than a desk drawer. And don’t throw it away. In Wisconsin, cellphones are not allowed in landfills or incinerators.

2. Small electronics. In addition to smartphones, other small-sized electronics like TV remotes, DVD players, and calculators can easily fit into the garbage can, but that doesn’t mean they should go there. Wisconsin has a landfill ban on electronics — regardless of the size, notes Greeno. Many electronics contain valuable reusable materials. Not only that, they contain chemicals that can pollute the soil, water and pose health hazards if they enter landfills or are disposed of in other improper ways.

3. Cords. Once you finally get this tangled mess organized, your old computer cords and connecting wires can be recycled too. Valuable copper in the wire can be separated and recycled for new products.

4. Batteries. We all have them stashed somewhere, possibly debating if we should throw them in the trash. Technically, it is not illegal to throw household dry-cell batteries in the garbage in Wisconsin. However, know what kind of batteries you are throwing away and if they should be recycled instead. Some batteries, such as rechargeable lithium ion batteries used in many electronics, pose fire risks if mishandled or damaged, and should not be thrown in the trash, according to the Wisconsin DNR. Learn more.

5.Small household appliances. Coffeemakers, toasters and other kitchen countertop appliances can be difficult to part with. But when they do quit working, know that plastic and other materials within them, can often be ground down and used in the manufacturing of new products.

Where do I recycle these items?

Dynamic Recycling does not collect recyclables from households directly. Instead, the business contracts with collectors, businesses, schools and other large entities to recycle large quantities.

To learn where to bring your household recyclables, look up your local, official recycling program or ask your garbage collector. La Crosse residents can visit the Household Hazardous Waste Facility and Harter’s Quick Clean Up websites to learn more. Review what is accepted and hours before bringing in items. Rules vary by location and for households and non-households (businesses, government agencies, schools, etc.). Sometimes fees apply. Wisconsin DNR website also provides an overview on what to recycle.

When recycling cellphones, computers and other electronics with personal information, consider how to protect and erase data before recycling.