Reedsburg business one of few places accepting old electronics

February 8, 2019 GMT

REEDSBURG — Options are limited for area residents looking to dispose of old electronics, but one Reedsburg business remains registered as an electronics collection site and may open a location in Baraboo in the near future.

At about 15 miles west of Baraboo, Helping Hands Recycling is the nearest collection site, according to the state Department of Natural Resources’ updated list of collection sites. The DNR also recently updated other information, including a list of electronics manufacturers that offer mail-back or trade-in programs found through the same database.

Owner David Bingham said Helping Hands has been registered with the DNR since he opened in 2010. Rising recycling fees over the years have driven other collectors out of business.

“It’s a hard business to make money at,” Bingham said. “The price of scrap metal is way down, so what we get out of our products is a lot less than what it used to be, and then the components inside are getting smaller and smaller … so you have less precious materials within the products.”

E-Cycle Wisconsin, a statewide program to recycle certain electronics, reported in November that the number of registered collection sites dropped by one-quarter in the last five years, leaving seven counties without a site or collection event.

Helping Hands is the only site in Sauk County that collects all categories of E-Cycle items, though Computers For You — also in Reedsburg — takes computers and laptops. The next closest locations to Baraboo are the Columbia County Solid Waste Department in Pardeeville and Goodwill in Portage.

Cases of “irresponsible recycling,” the DNR report says, “threaten the environment and human health and are driven in part by higher costs for responsible recycling.”

State law requires most electronic devices to be recycled. Tossing an old television into the garbage could result in a fine.

Bingham used to collect in Baraboo but found he wasn’t getting enough to make it worthwhile. Now, however, he’s considering setting up another site.

“I know there are a lot of people from Baraboo that drive over (to Reedsburg) to drop off,” he said.

His Reedsburg location accepts some items such as laptops and cellphones for free, while TVs run from $10 to $40, depending on the size. Customers can drop off items at any time and leave cash or a check in a dropbox.

Bingham said even if people decide to dump their electronics illegally rather than pay the disposal fee, he often gets the business anyway when Sauk County officials call him to pick up refuse. Residential drop-offs account for about 10 percent of his business, with the majority coming from public schools around the state, landfills and municipal governments.

Aside from profits and the fact that putting certain electronics into a landfill is illegal, Bingham said he got into the collection business to help the environment. Some devices can leak harmful chemicals or metals into the ground.

“I don’t like to see the environment polluted if it doesn’t have to be,” Bingham said.

Sauk County Clean Sweep events, held twice a year, collect electronics as well as household cleaners and other hazardous waste. The county charges fees for some items, including $20 to $60 for TVs. The Sauk County website also lists other options for various items, such as donating appliances to St. Vincent de Paul Society.