EchoWorks, Western Dakota Tech working to help keep e-waste out of landfills and environment

RAPID CITY, S.D. — October 14 is International E-Waste Day, a day where businesses and citizens are encouraged to bring any old or not-working electronic devices to facilities that specialize in recycling of these products.

Echoworks Old Cell PhonesAccording to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans nationwide currently own over three billion electronic products. The average household alone has more than 20 devices.

When thrown out, these items end up in landfills. Once in the ground, these items risk contaminating the ground with toxic heavy metals and chemicals that can seep into soil and groundwater.

EchoWorks gives residents and businesses a place to bring their old electronics to be taken apart and properly disposed of. It is a part of Black Hills Works, a local organization that helps adults with disabilities gain independence in work and life.

“It may be a printer, it may be a computer, a laptop, cell phone,” EchoWorks supervisor Randy Sheppard explained. “Any electronic items that we don’t want in a landfill they may bring to us.”

Echoworks currently has two people working to process materials brought in: Joey and Blaze.  They work to prepare them to go to a recycling facility.

As of September 2021, EchoWorks has collected more than 73,000 pounds of electronics. Blaze and Joey have processed nearly 35 tons of the e-waste materials.

In the same month, their first truck full of materials went to a recycling facility in Wisconsin.

EchoWorks also works with Western Dakota Tech, where environmental engineering students help with providing information to the public about the importance of recycling old electronics and making sure they are aware of these opportunities.

Students in the school’s truck driving program will benefit from EchoWorks as well. Though the first trip was when students were not in session, they will have the opportunity to gain real-world experience driving the vehicles when more products are ready to be sent to Wisconsin.

“It’s really fun for my students to research information for public service announcements,” Environmental Engineering Director Dr. Kelsey Murray said. “And provide information to the community about the importance of recycling.”

On Monday, October 18, EchoWorks will receive the 2021 Sustainability award from Rapid City’s Sustainability Committee. The award will be for their work in reducing the effects of e-waste on the environment.

Mayor Steve Allender will present it to EchoWorks officials during Monday night’s city council meeting.

“We know that we’re making a difference in the community,” Sheppard said. “That we’re helping to stop contaminants and all those types of things from going into the landfill.”

Above all, they are thankful for everyone that helped make the company a reality.

“We couldn’t do this without the partnership of Western Dakota Tech,” Director of Philanthropy Tamie Hopp stated. “And of course our really wonderful community that has recognized the harm that can happen when electronics get disposed of.”

EchoWorks is located on the Western Dakota Tech campus, and is open weekdays from 8:00 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. For more information on the program, head to: www.blackhillsworks.org/programs-services/enterprises/echoworks

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News