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Fairgrounds offer e-waste recycling

[BODY]Old broken or unused televisions, lap tops and telephones do more than just take up space in your home or garbage.

Some parts of this electronic waste contain such materials as lead and mercury, which can harm the the environment if disposed of in the wrong way. That’s why in February 2006, all electronic devises with a cord were banned from California landfills.

“The bottom line is you can’t throw it in your Dumpster,” said Diane Booth Conway, spokeswoman for the Merced County Fairgrounds.The fairgrounds is for a second year teaming up with the city of Merced’s annual Spring Cleanup to make sure everyone disposes of their e-waste properly — and at no cost.

Bring computer monitors, televisions, printers, fax machines and other electronics to the fairgrounds’ 11th Street parking lot from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. And if you miss this weekend, come to the same place at the same time next weekend on April 19 and 20.

The event is being held concurrently with the city’s Spring Cleanup, which accepts other discarded items such as tires, wood and brush. But the cleanup is only available to those with proof of their Merced residencies.

Everyone — not just Merced residents — is welcome to bring their e-waste to the fairgrounds, Conway said. They can also drop it off from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. both weekends at the city’s Spring Cleanup sites: Merced High School, Golden Valley High School and Merced College.

More than 70,000 pounds of televisions and computer monitors were collected last year, she said. And pairing the fairgrounds’ event with the city’s cleanup saved city officials time, staff and about $9,000 in e-waste disposal costs.

Microwaves, vacuum cleaners, washers, dryers and other similar household appliances are not accepted as e-waste. But bring in your LDC and plasma screens, computer towers, copiers, computer mice and cell phones.

“All consumer and business equipment that can’t be used again is the most rapidly growing waste problem,” Conway said. “People are buying new computers, TVs — what do you do with the old ones? You can’t just dump it.”

While many already know they can’t throw their televisions in the trash, a lot don’t realize other electronics — such as Game Boys and cell phones — also fall into this category, said Jennifer Halpin, recycling specialist for the Merced County Association of Governments.

Recycling is one way to get rid of e-waste. But people also donate their old electronics, she said, adding that Goodwill Industries is accepting both working and nonworking computer monitors.

The fairgrounds’ event will recycle items it collects at Electronic Recyclers of Fresno, the largest e-waste recycler in the state.Taking care of such waste within our own country is important, Halpin said. Some companies dump their old electronics overseas in Africa or Asia. “That’s a big issue right now,” she said. “It’s good to keep it in the U.S.”[TAIL_FL]Reporter Dhyana Levey can be reached at (209) 385-2472 or [/TAIL_FL]

What: Electronic waste recyclingWhen: 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and April 19-20.Where: Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, MercedCost: FreeFor more information, go or contact the fairgrounds at or (209) 722-1507.