A chance to dump old electronics and shred personal documents drew a record crowd to Saturday's "e-recycling" events in Beaufort and Bluffton.
Beaufort County solid waste director Jim Minor said the two locations accommodated nearly three times the normal turnout and collected two to three times as much material as previous events.
It was not what officials at the Solid Waste Management Department expected at its electronics-recycling day -- and they're not sure why so many people showed up.
"It may have been an anomaly," Minor said. He attributed it partly to a growing awareness about electronics recycling and people upgrading to new gadgets during the holidays.
Traffic was clogged by mid-morning Saturday with vehicles entering the drop-off on Benton Road in Bluffton. Another, unrelated event at the Bluffton Rec Center on Ulmer Road contributed to the traffic, Minor said.
Beaufort County deputies and Bluffton police officers were called to direct traffic for about two hours at the Bluffton event, according to Sgt. Robin McIntosh, spokeswoman for the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office.
The Beaufort drop-off on 140 Shanklin Road also was busier than normal, although authorities were not needed to direct traffic there, Minor said.
About 750 people participated in recycling days in August and November, and they dropped off 26 tons of electronics and 10 tons of shredded paper, according to Minor. During Saturday's event, 1,964 people dumped about 40 tons of electronics and 20 tons of paper.
The recycling days are part of the county's effort to comply with a state law enacted in 2010 that bans dumping televisions, computers and printers in landfills. Counties are required to provide an alternative to recycle them.
The county held two electronics-recycling days per year before the law, but started holding quarterly events in August to match the higher demand the law created.
"In view of the fact that people couldn't dispose of the material, we knew we had to expand these events," Minor said.
Beaufort County has had an agreement for four years with Creative Recycling Systems Inc., a private company with a state contract to dispose of the banned items, Minor said.
The county provides event promotion and manpower -- about 20 workers -- while the company hauls the debris from collection sites at no cost to the county.
It's the most bang for a buck, Minor said, with each electronics-recycling day costing the department $5,000 to $8,000.
"There was no funding provided for counties to begin the program," he said. "We basically had to figure out how to get electronics out of the waste stream and recycle them."
Department staff isn't sure if turnout will be as high at the next event, scheduled for May, but Minor said it will be better prepared.
"If this becomes the new normal, we'll have to do some changes," he said.
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