Jannette Adams, grants and special projects coordinator for the Columbus Municipal School District, places labels on a recycling bin at Brandon Central Services. The district has placed bins at the central office and all city schools, hoping people will donate unwanted electronic devices that can be recycled for cash. Photo by: Courtesy Photo
December 17, 2012 11:47:57 AM
The Columbus Municipal School District is thinking green these days, launching a new recycling initiative it hopes will bring in a little extra cash while helping the environment.
Bins were placed in each school office as well as at Brandon Central Services last week, and people both in and outside the district are encouraged to donate unwanted small electronics.
A Dallas-based company, Recycling Fundraiser, will give each school anywhere from $0.50 to $350 for working and non-working items such as cell phones, laptops and iPads. An Apple iPhone can fetch between $10 and $350, while BlackBerry phones pay as little as $1 and as much as $100.
The money will be given to the school where the device was donated. Though the company also accepts jewelry and ink cartridges, CMSD is not accepting those items at this time.
It can be a real revenue generator, said Jannette Adams, grants and special projects coordinator for the district. She first encountered Recycling Fundraiser -- formerly EcoPhones -- while working as director of sponsored programs and chairman of the sustainability committee at Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena.
She became excited about it when she received the first check -- $600.
When she left the college, she carried with her a new-found passion for recycling and environmental consciousness which she hopes will inspire Columbus residents.
"It's a culture and a mindset," Adams said Friday afternoon. "It really isn't hard. I think once people buy into it, it will be something they will want to do. After it becomes a part of what you do, you become passionate about it."
For parents whose children change cell phones as often as they change clothes, a quick glance around the house may yield dozens of broken or outdated items.
Recycling Fundraiser estimates that consumer electronics are responsible for approximately 50 percent of all recycled metals in the United States, and the average U.S. household owns 25 or more devices.
According to its website, recyclingfundraiser.com, the company refurbishes and resells 80 percent of the devices. The remaining 20 percent are salvaged for their reusable metals, which may include gold, silver, platinum, lead, copper, nickel and a number of scarce metals.
The process keeps toxic elements out of landfills while putting a little extra cash in participating organizations' coffers, Adams said.
CMSD's board of trustees approved the program last Monday, and it is expected to be a long-term project, eventually partnering with other organizations like the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link.
The only cost, Adams said, was $134 to purchase the large purple storage bins. Recycling Fundraiser provides marketing materials and prepaid shipping labels. The district will use parent volunteers to handle the packaging and shipping.
The initiative represents the district's first coordinated recycling effort, she said, and she hopes the bins will overflow after Christmas, when many people will receive new electronics and discard older models.
The benefits can sometimes extend far beyond the tangible.
For Adams, recycling has been a source of pride, making her more deeply aware of the impact one person can have on the environment. She has spoken at sustainability conferences around the nation and made a presentation to the Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta in 2009.
But her passion has been somewhat thwarted in Columbus, where she has been unable to find a local solution to some of her household recycling efforts. She believes CMSD's program is a good start to raising awareness.
She plans to continue the program throughout her tenure with the district, and she has already contributed her first item -- an mp3 player she no longer wanted.
"I'm not looking to change the world, just change mindsets a little bit," she said. "It just makes you feel good."
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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