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Go Green: Eighth grader seizes opportunity to help community recycle
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In Bastrop, one entrepreneurial eighth grader started his own e-business in an effort to properly dispose of electronic waste in his community.
"We recycle, reuse, and reduce e-waste — electronic waste. Once we pick up your waste or you ship it, we take it to our partners and recycle in a closed-loop recycling, and it's all in Texas," Miller Riemenschneider, founder of ecoGrün, said.
Prior to 2009, one might have to drive 30 miles or more to properly dispose of e-waste from the primarily rural county of Bastrop, a dirty little secret an observant Riemenschneider uncovered about his home county while performing community service with the National Junior Honor Society.
"We thought we're full technology, and trying to go green, and want to keep Bastrop beautiful and all that," Riemenschneider said. "We thought, we have a bunch of broken cell phones, we just put them in a box."
In a seven-hour period, ecoGrün’s first e-waste "clean sweep" collection drive netted near 3,500 pounds. Large console TVs took first place by weight.
E-waste includes any corded appliance, such as VCRs, computer towers, monitors, printers, keyboards, mouse devices, TVs, stereo receivers, video game systems and battery-operated devices like cell phones and laptops. They collect and fully recycle batteries, too.
It ends up in the hands of regional e-recyclers, where it’s pulled apart for possible reuse or further reduction.
The United States produces more e-waste than any other country on the planet. To clean up your part with ecoGrün, you'll have to pay a minimal handling and transportation fee.
So, what’s the big deal with e-waste after all? Turns out the components that make up all these appliances contain harmful, possible cancer-causing agents, mostly in the chips, circuit boards, and batteries.
Lead, cadmium and mercury are the top contaminates, Riemenschneider said.
“If it rains on top of it, [those pollutants] leak into the water. Or people in Africa, India, all those places, will burn it down just to get the precious metals out,” thereby venting harmful gasses into the atmosphere, he said.
Elementary school teacher Joni Ashbrook provides a glowing review of this inspiring, budding businessman.
“He saw the huge need that was in Bastrop County,” Ashbrook said. “So I was so thrilled that this young person took on this challenge. I think that young people are the ones that'll be teaching us. Old people are set in their ways and don't really understand the importance of recycling and how to take care of our waste.”
Profits from his business go towards a college fund, Riemenschneider said.
With a bit of luck he’ll be able to do more than pay for his education, and inspire generations, young and old, to think before they throw.