E-waste recycler establishes foothold in the Roaring Fork Valley
An electronics recycling company found a temporary home in Basalt and already is processing the first of what officials hope will be tons of materials annually in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Blue Star Recyclers opened in a small warehouse adjacent to the Willits Bend property off Willits Lane this month. Bill Morris, the founder of the company, hopes to relocate in 2021 to a permanent home in the Carbondale area.
The nonprofit Blue Star opened its first facility in Colorado Springs in 2009. It expanded to Denver in 2014 and Boulder in 2016. Morris believes the Roaring Fork Valley is a great next move because of the dedication of some residents in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties to recycling.
“The counties now recycle about 1 million pounds of e-waste annually,” he said Wednesday.
To put that into perspective, that is about the same amount that Boulder County recycles in a year.
Blue Star has a contract with the Pitkin County Landfill and South Canyon Landfill in Garfield County to collect the computers, laptops, monitors and mixed electronic devices that are brought there. Morris believes the amount of recycled e-waste will grow once word gets out about Blue Star. The company will also look into household pick-up once it gets established.
The Rotary Clubs of the region performed a rare feat by teaming up and providing funds to help get Blue Star established in the valley.
The company specializes in providing job opportunities for disabled people who are often overlooked by businesses. A majority of the company’s workers are on the autism spectrum. People with autism thrive in a setting where there is a repetitive task and a procedure to follow, Morris previously told The Aspen Times.
The workers disassemble the electronics, and all data devices are shredded or wiped clear. Materials that can be recycled are shipped to manufacturers in the United States.
At the new Basalt shop Wednesday, Danny Hennessy was using power tools to efficiently disassemble computers, strip out hard drives and separate wiring from metal.
Hennessy has worked at Blue Star’s facility in Colorado Springs for nearly seven years and occasionally participates in contests with colleagues to see who can disassemble the most electronic devices in a day. He said he has torn apart as many as 33 devices in a four-hour workday, even with a half-hour lunch break.
Blue Star held an e-waste day in Aspen on Saturday and collected mounds of materials for the Basalt facility. Two big donors were the city of Aspen IT department and a homeowner who hoarded items over the years and delivered two snowmobile trailers of electronic devices to the collection site in the Marolt property.
All told, about 20,000 pounds of devices were collected, said Lorin Marco, director of sales. The collection days are great to build awareness and motivate people to clean up closets and garages.
“That’s been a big part of our business,” Marco said.
Morris said the Basalt facility currently collects enough material from the two landfills to keep two employees busy.
“We’re just staffing this out of Denver right now,” Morris said. “We’re looking to hire a plant manager here.”
More on the company and the manager’s opening can be found at http://www.bluestarrecyclers.org. Once the company is established, Morris plans to work with the Roaring Fork School District and Ascendigo, a Carbondale-based nonprofit that works with people on the autism spectrum, to hire workers.
Morris remains confident that Blue Star can find the warehouse space it needs for a long-term home in the Carbondale area. The temporary space is 1,200 square feet. The firm is looking for 3,000 to 4,000 square feet with easy access for big rigs that will transport the materials.
“We can get by with this for six months,” Morris said of the Basalt space. But it will take a bigger space to match the bigger plan.