Twenty years ago, WOAS-FM was actively hunting for some sort of public service project to join. The old adage ‘seek and ye shall find’ truly came into play because less than a month after the search began, the paperwork for a recycling project from an organization called The Funding Factory landed in the mailbox. The Funding Factory program involved the collection of inkjet cartridges, cell phones, and laserjet cartridges for recycling. The FF provided the station with mailing labels, boxes, and a list of which items could be recycled through their program. All WOAS-FM had to do was supply the elbow grease to collect and package the recyclable items and have them picked up. All of the recyclables had a set price per unit and when we needed to fund a project around the station, all we had to do was request a check out of our collection earnings.
Over the years, the project has changed some. The Funding Factory stopped accepting cell phones some time ago and we had to begin finding our own shipping boxes. Fortunately the boxes that the WOAS vending machine products are delivered in can be repurposed for shipments while The Funding Factory still provides the prepaid shipping labels. The list of acceptable items has grown from a half dozen pages to more than twenty so it takes a little time to separate the recyclable items from the ones that are not approved. It would be nearly impossible to communicate the contents of this list to those donating cartridges, so WOAS simply takes in all that are donated and sorts them before shipping.
The population of Ontonagon County has dipped over the last two decades, so the amount of recyclable items coming in has also dropped. Even though the income stream is much lower than it was when the program began, we have been able to purchase electronic items like computers, CD players, microphones and other assorted electronic gear needed to keep us on the air. Our largest annual bill these days comes from the fees we pay to broadcast both audio and video on our website, www.woas-fm.org . WOAS did not even have a web presence when we began the recycling effort, so it is rather ironic that our streaming fees are now being covered by our computer generated waste recycling program. The Ontonagon Area Schools does pay our music license fee (that covers the royalties for the music we broadcast), but the income gained from recycling is critical because WOAS-FM is an all – volunteer, non-commercial station that continues to operate because of the generous support of our listeners.
How big of an impact does a small, rural collection operation like this make? Just for this year (up to the end of October 2019), WOAS has recycled 89 toner cartridges and 168 laserjet cartridges (some 215 total pounds) that did not end up in the local landfill. The recycled materials from the inkjet cartridges included plastic accounts for 13 pounds of this recycled material while the rest of the total includes nylon (1 pound), steel (11 pounds), and aluminum (1 pound). The 2019 total alone for these recycled items would offset the CO2 emissions equal to the consumption of 240 gallons of gasoline.
Other counterbalancing comparisons include the same amount of CO2 emissions from consuming 5 barrels of oil or the CO2 emissions from consuming 89 propane cylinders like those used for your home barbeques. It would also equal the equivalent effort to staving off global warming via the carbon dioxide intake and storage of 55 tree seedlings growing for ten years. Compound these numbers over the last twenty years and they show that even an area such as Ontonagon County can make a dent in global warming even with our small population.
Inkjet and laser jet cartridges can be dropped in the box next to the Ontonagon Area Schools library any time the building is open. There is also a collection box located near the Ontonagon Township Library side door (near the indoor ramp). Over the years, the MSU Extension/4-H Office at the County Courthouse, Citizens State Bank, and the Ontongaon County Telephone Company have also diverted their recyclable items from the landfill through the WOAS-FM collection. If you have questions about this program and how to get your cartridges out of the waste stream, feel free to contact Ken Raisanen at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at WOAS-FM at 906-813-0614 Ext. 113.
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