Ohio Wesleyan Senior’s Course Work Fosters Cellphone Recycling Program

Environmental geography research shows need for new student recycling service

Ohio Wesleyan senior Tim Schmidt of West Springfield, Massachusetts, created the OWU Cellphone Recycling Program through research from his environmental geography course and an independent study with John Krygier, associate professor of geology-geography. (Photo by Linda O’Horo)

About three tons of electronic waste was recycled by Ohio Wesleyan University last year—primarily computers, televisions, printers, and other equipment. Now there’s a new e-waste recycling program geared toward students—and initiated by a student.

Last fall for his environmental geography course, Ohio Wesleyan senior Tim Schmidt conducted a “test” e-waste collection drive on campus, netting 34 cellphones and 18 computers in one day, prompting him to propose the OWU Cellphone Recycling Program.

Schmidt, an economics management major with a minor in geography, wants to reduce irresponsible disposal of cellphones.

“More than 100 million cellphones are thrown away each year in the United States,” he says. “Most people don’t understand that there are harmful agents in cellphones like lead, mercury, and plastic polymers. Much of the world’s e-waste ends up in Guiyu, China, where they burn cellphone waste in open air. Research indicates that 69 percent of the children there are suffering from lead poisoning.”

To ensure that OWU’s cellphones do not end up in landfills, they will be purchased by Teracycle, a New Jersey-based company that follows EPA standards to recycle and create new products. OWU will receive 40 cents for each cellphone donated.

Chris Setzer, director of buildings and grounds, supported Schmidt’s proposal and purchased nine lockable cellphone collection receptacles. Schmidt chose the locations for the collection receptacles based on his research related to his collection drive:

  • Bashford Hall – main lobby
  • Hayes Hall – main lobby
  • Smith Hall – main lobby
  • Stuyvesant Hall – smoker
  • Thompson Hall – main lobby
  • Welch Hall – main lobby
  • Senior Living Units on Williams Drive – main lobbies

Schmidt encourages off-campus students, faculty and staff to donate to a special promotional cellphone receptacle in the lobby of Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, which was created by Anh Vu ’11, a fine arts major from Vietnam. Vu designed a receptacle shaped like a phone as a project for Krygier’s environmental geography course this semester.

Because Schmidt is graduating, he is working to have the student recycling coordinator for 2011-2012 or a campus organization manage the cellphone recycling project—to keep it sustainable. He also says that if the program grows, the project could expand to collect other items, including batteries.

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