Tzu Chi Long Island E-Waste Recycling Program: Small Efforts Go a Long Way

Northeast  |  June 15, 2023
Long Island Academy student showing their electronic waste
A teacher takes students to sort items to be recycled at the Tzu Chi Academy in Long Island. Photo/Tzu Chi Northeast Region

Written by Tim Lee, Pin Hau Chiou
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Andrea Barkley

As society increasingly relies on electronic devices, e-waste has emerged as the nation’s fastest-growing waste stream. While electronic waste holds potential economic value through recycling, it also harbors hazardous materials that pose a significant risk if not properly handled during the recycling process. This predicament has presented a considerable challenge for modern society: how to dispose of e-waste safely and effectively. In response to this pressing issue, the dedicated volunteers of the Tzu Chi USA Long Island Branch Office have taken the initiative to organize an e-waste recycling event, aiming to contribute to the well-being of our planet and generations to come.

The e-waste recycling campaign initiated by the Long Island Branch commenced in mid-April 2023. Diligently, the volunteers collected discarded electronic items from the Long Island office and Tzu Chi Academy in Long Island, meticulously loading them onto a truck for responsible disposal.

Amid a downpour on April 23, Tzu Chi Academy students in Long Island grasped their old iPads, water bottles, and computers, knowing that these cherished possessions were about to embark on a recycling journey. The young students attentively absorbed their teacher’s explanation regarding the significance of proper disposal. Yet, tears soon welled in their eyes as they prepared to bid farewell to once-beloved headphones. 

“Are you reluctant to let go?” their teacher asked compassionately. Calmly, the teacher provided reassurance, expressing, “Remember, it’s important to care for your electronic devices while using them, and if they break, it’s time to let go. I know, even when our cherished gadgets become unusable, it can be difficult to part ways with them.” 

The young students had nodded in agreement, grasping the principles of handling old electronic products through activities like these. Despite the heavy rainfall, parents from the academy displayed their determination as they bravely joined in, carrying the electronic items onto the awaiting truck.

The parents of the students and Tzu Chi volunteers work together to carry the electronics onto the truck
In the rain, the parents of the students and Tzu Chi volunteers work together to carry the electronics onto the truck. Photo/Tzu Chi Northeast Region

Amidst the bustling activity, the volunteers and parents earnestly thanked Zongji Lin, the dedicated truck driver responsible for collecting the e-waste, for exercising caution as he navigated the truck’s contents, carefully arranging and rearranging the objects. Fondly referred to as eco-friendly Lin by all, he has been collaborating with Tzu Chi Northeast Region volunteers for numerous years, tirelessly transporting and ensuring proper waste disposal for Tzu Chi. Remarkably, even though he receives compensation for his work, he humbly donates it back to Tzu Chi USA. This act has deeply touched everyone involved.

Year after year, Tzu Chi USA’s Long Island Branch Office organizes the e-waste recycling event at Tzu Chi Academy to familiarize students and parents with the significance of responsible waste recycling and advocate for environmental protection, urging everyone to embrace their part in caring for our planet. Despite the rain that accompanied the event, making the endeavor slightly more challenging, many parents expressed that the collective recycling effort was worthwhile.

I hope that while we are constantly upgrading to new electronic products, we also reuse electronic products until they break down, and then discard them for proper disposal — achieving the ‘3 Rs’ of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

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