ELECTRONIC AFTERLIFE by Adrianna Donat
Updated: Aug 12
One student’s effort to save the environment in SOMA – and the world.
We may not be able to live without computers. But how long will your computer live without you?
Estimates are that 80 percent of computers end up in a landfill. And it will take anywhere from one to two million years for them to decompose into their basic elements, many of which are toxic. This problem compounds as computers get cheaper and consumers opt to buy new computers instead of repairing old ones.
Caleb Diegnan takes electronics recycling very seriously, and he’s here to help.
Diegnan is a rising senior at Columbia High School, and the president of Recyclable Tech, an organization that works in the South Orange and Maplewood communities to ensure that electronics in our area are recycled properly.
Do you have computers, tablets, phones, printers, or even just electronic wires you need to get rid of? Recyclable Tech can help. And it doesn’t matter if your old device still works. Recyclable Tech will take it anyway.
“We tried to make the process as simple as possible,” Diegnan explains. “Just visit our website at RecyclableTech.org and fill out a submission form for a pickup or drop off donation. We take it from there.”
Once Diegnan has the electronics, he figures out where it will go next.
“We get a lot of really old stuff,” says Diegnan. “Things like old TVs and gaming consoles. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what it is.”
Diegnan sorts through the dusty electronics and decides what to do with each.
He puts aside those that can be resold. Once they’re sold, he donates profits to the Environmental Defense Fund.
Items that work but aren’t good candidates for resale are given to Medic Mobile, an organization that refurbishes the equipment for use by health care workers in 14 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia.
The rest are brought to Best Buy, where the recyclables are broken down into smaller reusable pieces.
Recyclable Tech is important to the recycling ecosystem in our towns and is getting attention from Cesare Riccardi, Superintendent & Recycling Coordinator at the Maplewood Department of Public Works.
Says Riccardi, “Caleb Diegnan and his predecessors are true assets to our community for their efforts and time spent towards this important matter, particularly because our program is a “drop-off” rather than a pickup. Their company, Recyclable Tech, offers a service to those residents that may not have the ability to transport their items to our facility for any reason, while still maintaining the integrity of the mission. The Township is proud to have residents such as Caleb that spearhead projects like this, and we are always willing and happy to help support them, and any cause that lessens environmental impacts and better serves our residents.” Riccardi adds that the Maplewood DPW is available to dispose of electronics any day and any time the DPW is open.
Recyclable Tech was an idea spearheaded by Jack and Owen Witt in 2020. The Witts graduated in 2021 from Columbia High School and Diegnan, a friend and neighbor, continued their mission after they left for college.
The COVID-19 pandemic offered some challenges for Recyclable Tech, but it’s bouncing back as things get better.
Says Diegnan, “We did three pickups last weekend, and filled the car twice.”
Now that Diegnan has driver’s a license, he expects to be able to make an even greater impact. “In 2020 we filled the garage. I think we can do it again,” he says.
Diegnan’s mother, Shama Diegnan, is excited about his work, despite the lack of garage space.
“I am excited to see Caleb breathe new life into this program. Like many ‘businesses’ they had challenges during the pandemic in continuing the pickups and working with the retail recycling partners due to [social] distancing. Now that we are in a different place with COVID, Caleb is getting interest again from people requesting pickups. He has plans to expand ways of getting the word out and letting more people in the community know this service is there.”
So if you, like many of us, have a pile of old electronics collecting dust, know that there is a quick, easy, environmentally friendly alternative to tossing them out. Reach out to Recyclable Tech: Diegnan is waiting to help.
As his mother notes, “It’s important to keep toxins in these items from impacting our landfills and waterways. Caleb wants to do his part in helping keep these electronic elements out. Even if it’s just letting people know these items can be recycled safely so they are not thrown in the regular trash, or that the town and county has regular electronics drop offs that residents can make use of, it’s all helping the cause.”
Adrianna Donat is a writer who has new respect for her computer after learning it will still be around in the year 3000.