Perry County's electronics recycling event on May 20 surpassed last year's event by 19 pallets worth of unwanted TVs, radios and other devices, and the expectations of organizers when the event reached capacity early.
"We weren't even ready when people started pulling in," said Kristie Smith, the county's recycling coordinator and a watershed specialist with the Perry County Conservation District.
The e-recycling event at the Perry County Fairgrounds in Newport was supposed to kick off at 10 a.m., but the first of about 279 cars showed up around 8:45 a.m., Smith said. Organizers had to ask people to wait a little while they got set up.
It only became busier after that. Cars reportedly continued to line up at the site and down the roads creating a small traffic jam that kept volunteers from reaching the fairgrounds to help.
"We were swamped, that's the best way to describe it," Smith said, adding that's a measure of success for the second e-recycling event.
Because there were so many cars and items to be recycled, organizers decided to end it at 12:30, but kept working through collections until 1 p.m., said Brenda Benner, county commissioner who was also at the event. It was supposed to last until 2 p.m.
"We had to turn some people away at 1 p.m. because we had reached capacity," Smith said.
In total, the recycling event filled a 53-foot tractor trailer, two 26-foot box trucks, a 1-ton pickup truck and a smaller trailer. The total number of pallets holding electronics was 55. Last year's event in October used fewer trucks and collected just 36 pallets, or 26,000 pounds, of unwanted electronics, Smith said.
This year's event was a success even if some people were turned away at the end because the electronics won't end up polluting the forests and streams.
"I met a lot of very nice people, so I thank the community for coming out and being a part of what we're trying to do," she said.
This wasn't the first time an electronics recycling event was too successful. The combined event for Duncannon and Penn Twp. in April experienced some of the same issues. People showed up early with lots of electronics. Although it was supposed to last several hours, the borough had to stop accepting items less than an hour after opening. That left many people frustrated because they waited in line for nothing.
The borough discussed a second event, possibly in June, at it's May meeting. It likely will separate the times for drop-off by borough and township residents, if Penn Twp. decides to participate again.
Over time, the electronics recycling events will go smoother, Smith said. Fewer high-priority cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and computer screens that contain lead will be out in the public. That will reduce some demand for the events and level attendance.
There could be collection centers opening this year that would give residents other avenues to recycle their electronics. Cumberland County is opening such a location, Smith said. Eventually, she would like to set up a Perry County recycling center, but that won't be this year.
She also expects some fine-tuning to state laws that could improve affordable access to electronics recycling. The 2011 law that took electronics out of landfills was important and well-meaning, but wasn't perfect. Part of the problem is there are only 13 companies performing such recycling, and just two of them are in the U.S., Smith said.
"The economic system behind how it affects rural Pennsylvania was not well thought through," she said.
In the meantime, the county will work through the issues and continue recycling to prevent yesterday's TV from becoming today's pollution. Smith is planning another event for next year. The 16 volunteers and municipal support are the reasons they can continue doing it, she said.
"I have a wonderful base of Keep Perry County Beautiful volunteers."
Jim T. Ryan can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org