ALAMOSA — Local residents with developmental disabilities will soon have more job opportunities and San Luis Valley residents will soon have somewhere to recycle electronics.
Senate Bill 133, going into effect next month, prohibits the public from dumping electronic devices/components in landfills. Electronic devices include: computers; fax machines; video recorders; laptops; printers; digital video disc players; and any device containing a cathode ray tube or flat panel screen greater in size than four inches diagonally.
The bill also specifies that certified recyclers must be used for electronic device disposal after July 2013.
To accommodate the law, the public and Blue Peaks Developmental Services clients, the Alamosa city council unanimously agreed during its July 18 meeting to enter a one-time $13,178 contract with Blue Star Recyclers for program development to train WSB and Blue Peaks staff in how to safely handle collected electronics.
Blue Star Recyclers is a certified recycler.
Bill Morris, CEO of the Colorado Springs-based Blue Star Recyclers, said 25 states now have this same legislation prohibiting electronic devices in landfills. He said when people are turned away from landfills with these items, they start throwing them by the side of the road. His proposal, in conjunction with WSB Computer Services locally, will help prevent that.
WSB Computer Services received a Recycling Resource Economic Opportunity grant of just over $49,000 from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and matched it with about $29,800 in-kind support to establish the project at its 21 Craft Drive business location. The business needed to extend its building to provide space for disassembly work and to store materials collected from the public.
WSB Computer Services for purposes of this project will serve the entire San Luis Valley and although headquartered in Alamosa will eventually have collection points in South Fork, Monte Vista, Center, Saguache, Fort Garland and Antonito, which may serve customers in northern New Mexico.
Blue Peaks Developmental Services will directly supervise the adults with developmental disabilities who are employed in the electronic recycling arm of the company.
Morris said this would be a public/private partnership between WSB, Blue Peaks, Blue Star and initially the city.
Alamosa City Manager Nathan Cherpeski said for the city to begin an electronic recycling program of its own would cost significantly more than the $13,000 requested. He said Public Works Director Don Koskelin was trying to find a solution to the problem of not being able to accept electronic waste any more but not having anywhere else to take it.
Cherpeski said the only business that might have any competitive argument against WSB taking on this project might be the Hub, and the owner of the Hub is not opposed to this but in fact supports WSB in this venture.
Blue Star Recyclers, a nonprofit that began in 2009, employs adults with developmental disabilities who have proven skill in disassembly, Morris said. Of the 27 jobs developed by Blue Star Recyclers, 21 are filled by adults with developmental disabilities, he said.
He said these members of the population have a difficult time finding jobs, “and they have real talent and real value.”
He added, “The work is phenomenally beneficial to them.”
The local program will provide three new jobs for adults with developmental disabilities during the first calendar year, Morris said.
Alamosa City Attorney Erich Schwiesow said governments could legitimately enter into public/private agreements in order to accomplish a public purpose such as this.
Morris said the part Blue Star Recyclers would play would be in providing approximately 200 hours of initial training at a cost of $13,178. This cost $250,000 to develop in Colorado Springs, but Blue Star Recyclers is willing to sell it to other communities for $13,000, he explained.
Training includes such topics as materials collection, handling and separation.
Morris said he hopes to begin program development by August 1 and begin operations by October 1.
He said state grants provide funding for much of the implementation of these programs but for some reason do not fund the program development portion, so that is why the city council was asked to assit with that portion. This will be a one-time request, he added.
Benefits to the local communities include: jobs, particularly for a segment of the population that has difficulty finding work; taxpayer savings from not having to provide as much assistance to residents who now have employment; a place for people to recycle electronics; and elimination of electronic waste in landfills.
Morris estimated about 250,000 pounds would be recycled in the first year alone here.
City councilors applauded Morris’ work and said the city has always been supportive of recycling efforts. Some members of council questioned why the regional landfill authority and other communities and counties were not contributing to the cost of developing this program, however.