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Monday, February 23, 2009

Crying For Digital Discards

by Floyd Egner, Public Relations Specialist, Conservation Resources
Pinellas County Utilities

You’ve probably seen “crying guy” by now, mourning the TV set he loved for so long. It’s the digital age and his dearly discarded TV has taken wing to its final resting place, leaving him with a tear in his eye as he recalls those long hours on the couch with his best buddy.

“Crying guy” is the centerpiece of an advertising campaign by Pinellas County Utilities for its Household Electronics & Chemical Collection Center (HEC3), the “proper disposal” place for all of those analog televisions, outdated computer equipment and obsolete cell phones that contain heavy metals and materials that can be harmful to the environment.

The HEC3 has reported its heaviest traffic ever. Saturday, Jan. 3 set a record with 241 participants, breaking the previous record of 145 participants in one day. The most frequently accessed pages in the online edition of Pinellas County’s “A to Z” Recycling Guide are those concerned with electronics.

Electronics recycling is the hottest topic in the solid waste business these days. With the now-delayed, but still impending conversion to digital television broadcasting, recycling and solid waste programs across the country have reported higher than anticipated turnouts for free electronic recycling programs.

Truckloads of discarded gear – hundreds of tons — have been collected and recycled as many people also are taking advantage of the digital television conversion to get rid of old computer gear they’ve been collecting in attics and basements.

Recent media reports, including a “Sixty Minutes” segment and articles in Wired and National Geographic magazines, have detailed the terrible consequences of improper disposal, particularly in Third World countries. Operations have been exposed in Africa, India and China where practices include burning circuit boards and wiring in open air fires to recover metals. The resulting air pollution is devastating to both the individuals involved and their communities.

To dispose of your unwanted electronics properly, visit Pinellas County’s HEC3 or see the online A to Z Guide for other options.

More information:
A to Z Guide for Recycling & Disposal

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Easy Ways to Conserve Water

Mary Campbell, Pinellas County Extension Director, Urban Sustainability Agent
Here is a quiz. On average, how many gallons of water per day does one person use? Take a guess. If you guessed about 50 gallons/day you are wrong. Ok, I will stop fooling around; the answer is about 100 gallons.
Have you looked at your water bill lately to see how much you use? I was shocked to see that I was using considerably more than the 100 gallons per day per person in my home. I started to try and figure out what was going on, which led me to a leak in an outside line in the garden that was losing about 10,000 gallons per month.

It was not easy to find, so don’t give up if you think you have a leak. Turn everything off in the house and go outside to the meter and see if the little leak detector is spinning. If it is – start hunting. Leaks are a huge water waster and you are paying for that water.
In one year, a faucet that drips at the rate of one drop per second translates into 2,700 gallons of water down the drain. Do-it-yourselfers can remedy the problem by replacing worn washers or the entire faucet; if you're not up to the job, call in a qualified professional.

Toilets are the biggest water hog, accounting for 28 percent of all home water use. Consider replacing an older model with a more efficient, low-flow one that uses just 1 to 2 gallons per flush, or consider upgrading to a pressure-assisted, vacuum-assisted, or dual-flush model. Low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators are two additional water-wise bathroom must-haves that will further cut water use by hundreds of gallons per month.

Here's a water-wasting habit that's easy to break: letting the water run while brushing teeth, washing hands, or shaving. See for yourself how much water you'll save by putting the stopper in the sink and leaving the water running. Fills up pretty fast, doesn't it? Simply by turning off the water when you're not actually using it, you'll save gallons per minute.

Watering our landscapes is another area that we need to be very careful even if you are using a well. Our groundwater resources are also important. To learn more about conserving water in the landscape:

Water is an important resource that we need to conserve. Only three percent of the planets water is fit to drink – so let’s not waste what we have!
Pinellas County Utilities Water Conservation:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Green Spring Clean

James Stevenson, Pinellas County Extension Specialist, Urban Sustainability

We are so fortunate in Central Florida to have spring come so early. After a recent spate of chilly weather, I think I’m declaring spring officially here (although it is only mid-February.)

This brings us to an annual tradition: the Spring Clean. This time-honored task involves throwing the windows wide open, airing-out the rugs, and getting rid of all the STUFF that has accumulated for the past 12 months.

Perhaps there are still remnants of holiday gifts with no reasonable place in the home. Perhaps there are replacement objects that have rendered their predecessor irrelevant. It is time to take all the extra STUFF away to be re-used. A spring clean for one can result in a bounty for another; “one man’s trash…”

Of course for usable objects there are “thrift” or “charity” shops. These shops abound in the Bay Area, and are a great way to keep perfectly good items out of the waste stream. The down-side to thrift shops (for me, anyway) is that taking items for drop-off often leads to a bit of un-planned shopping—therefore canceling the “shift-of-stuff” objective of dropping items off in the first place. But never mind that. In many if not all of the cases of thrift shops, the money raised by re-selling used goods goes toward community development projects. Not only are you keeping the landfills clear, you are benefiting the local community—both noteworthy, green practices.

For the broken, worn-out-and-yet-still-salvageable, or the downright toxic, there are the wonderful Pinellas County Utilities programs including the Household Electronics and Chemical Collection Center(*) and local mobile collection(**) events. These offer citizens the opportunity to GET RID OF STUFF easily and conveniently.

Mark your calendar and get busy getting rid of STUFF, and we hope that 2009 will be a year-of-less-accumulation for your and your family. In these times, giving rather than getting are good benchmarks to try to hit.