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Left In Lowell » Blog Archive » A Recycling Adventure

Left In Lowell

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November 16, 2011

A Recycling Adventure

by at 11:09 am.

I went on an adventure yesterday, a journey which started with a thorough “de-cluttering” of our home - which for years has had various computer and electronics parts strewn about waiting for a proper disposal solution. We host Thanksgiving at my house, and I was tired of tucking these old things in little corners or closets temporarily in order to have gatherings.

My batch of undesirables

In desperation over the weekend, I piled up a 10 year old tower computer (the one I started my business with, now two “generations” past) by the front door, along with a batch of CFL light bulbs which need careful disposing, an old motherboard, some cell phones, and a keyboard and mouse with the “old” connectors. I piled them there, and called the Solid Waste & Recycling Office to ask if there was a way to see them recycled.

I got several answers, including that one can bring some of these things to places like Staples, or Lowe’s and Home Depot for CFLs - and then one name was mentioned, but he told me to call first to see what they could take. That name was Northeast Material Handling, which a year ago moved from North Chelmsford into the old Prince Spaghetti factory off of Gorham St. Little did I know pursuing that tidbit would bring me lock, stock and CFL to the imposing building which is the old factory, with everything in my little car. Because when I spoke to Patti, she told me they take all of what I was looking to get rid of - for free! (You can check out their website here.)

The city should have the NMH’s name and phone number and website prominently on the Solid Waste and Recycling’s web page, because after my experience there, I found out that a partnership with NMH would be a win-win-win for residents, the city, and for the company as well. A win for residents who want to get rid of stuff without paying a fee (in some cases, I think there may be a nominal fee, but not usually), for the city, which is struggling with its waste management budget deficit, and which had to impose fees to carry away bulk items, and a win for the company, which tears this stuff apart for the materials, and makes a profit.

Electronics recycling dissembling area

The company gets its profitability from the size of its massive operation, Patti told me. As I took a tour of the place (I came for the recycling, and stayed for the tour!) I can fully believe it! Huge containers of old CRT monitors, a big assembly line of dismantlers to break apart such complex items as computers and cell phones into component parts, a massive store of furniture both home and office (for sale! more on that later). Everything they break down is recycled, said my tour guide, and that means everything. From the “painted aluminum” of computer cases, to the heavy metal of the printed circuit boards, to all the plastic bits that hold it together - and much of this is done on site. (The big thing they don’t do on site, Patti told me, is break down wood, which they send out). All of the materials are reclaimed, recycled, and sold for reuse.

Giant aisles of office furniture

Miles of computer chairs! (It seemed!)

You find the coolest, oddest stuff there

What’s more, she also talked about the security they have, and they even do work for the Department of Defense. For companies or government entities with very sensitive data, they offer specially monitored destruction. For the average cell phone or hard drive, when I expressed that I was concerned about possible data still left on them, she showed me just how thoroughly they take these things apart, degaussing drives, and then breaking them down and melting them, all under the watchful eye of video cameras. When I saw their operation I wasn’t so worried about my cell phones going into the mix. It was a relief, because even if I’d found their proper cords, I wasn’t sure I could boot them up after all this time to wipe all my contacts and info, and even if I did, I didn’t really want to spend the time on it!

They also took my CFLs and will de-mercury them and recycle them properly. It was one stop shopping for all my disposal needs. They will do pick up by arrangement, too, for appliances and items that are too bulky for your vehicle to carry.

The rest of my tour was of their furniture/for sale section. I have never ever seen so many computer chairs in one place! And a huge aisle of file cabinets! I will never go to Staples for office furniture again. They have couches, and tables, and dining room chairs, of every style you could think of. Cubicles and big executive desks. Some were outdated - some were very nice and in good shape. I’d have a hard time working there, seeing the inventory going in and out without buying a lot. The prices are what you expect - a lot lower than for new items, priced based on condition and desirability, but they take the care to clean the factory dust (the place can’t help but get dusty) before you pick them up or they deliver them. If you want to see their current inventory (or part of it at least) they post it on their website - but it changes daily, as things come in and get sold!

If you are interested in going to buy furniture, call Nick at 978-459-9595, he’s the furniture guy.

They also take washers and dryers and fridges and big appliances, again to tear up and recycle every bit of it. You can find a list of things on their website, and I’m sure you can call (978-459-9595, ask for Patti) and find out more details, talk about pick up (for things that you can’t get there yourself) and drop off hours of operation. They are talking about working with the city to arrange hours for resident drop-off on Saturdays, and I really hope that happens.

Northeast Materials Handling also does a lot of fundraising for schools and organizations - the LHS Crew team’s bring-in-your-items day was run by NMH. So if you want to recycle your items for a good cause you can bring them to one of their events, or even create an event of your own for your school or org. The materials, I was told, are also resold right here in New England for use - not only are you recycling locally, but the material stays here to be used!

I found them really friendly as well, and since I am a gregarious girl, I love meeting new people. I never thought I would say this, but I had a hard time tearing myself away from the browsing and the conversations at this recycling and reuse business. There were many fascinating things to be found, like that old-fashioned hot dog/popcorn stand, a castle and glass top side table, and just a ton of other things, artwork and knick knacks and throw pillows and lamps. You really do have to see the place to get the scale. I concluded my adventure by finding a little piece of furniture I’d been looking for for a while and making a purchase. I have the duel contentment that not only did I get a good price, but I am finding a new home for something that could have, in someone else’s hands, taken up space in a landfill.

And that is a feeling worth having!

14 Responses to “A Recycling Adventure”

  1. Joe S Says:

    Hidden gem - thanks for bringing the light from under the bushel.

  2. Politics at Work Says:

    Great information, Lynne! Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Tim Little Says:

    Wow; fantastic!!
    Hidden gem, indeed!!

  4. Dakota Slim Says:

    thanks lynne–i need to go over there!!

  5. Paul@01852 Says:

    Are there any restrictions on who can drop off recyclables?

  6. joe from Lowell Says:

    Awesome. Thanks for this.

  7. Mr. Lynne Says:

    A Castle? [blink blink]

  8. Lynne Says:

    No restrictions that I know of for residency or anything. This is a private company, and they make their money off of the material they salvage from your discards.

    Yeah, a castle. I came THIS CLOSE to inquiring about its price!

  9. K-R-S Says:

    This company also partners with the Wish Project which has been instrumental in that organizations goal to be a zero waste facility.

  10. Lynne Says:

    Ha, found the castle table on their website: on this page, look for item #1/ST4847B. Just below the “motorcycle” table and above the “cocktail” table which boasts real cocktails. ;)

  11. Lynne Says:

    Oh and Kristin, yes - thanks for that, she did mention Wish as well. Very cool!

  12. Boomer Says:

    wow, pretty cool. I had no idea about this but will keep it in mind. I agree about the city supplying the # on the City of Lowell website too

  13. Tom Schulte Says:

    Another sad discovery–
    Seems our ‘town’ has no plan in place for disposal/recycling of NMH lamps (contain significant amt. of mercury). I apologize if I am wrong. Apparently I asked a question that I should have left alone.

    I moved here from California 7 years ago and continue to be surprised and shocked. I want these 1000 watt mercury vessels out of my yard. I won’t pay to have them mailed off to a disposal site.

    Any medium sized town/city has thousands of these lamps in nightly operation. Eventually they do burn out. I don’t believe that the city owns a ‘Star-trek’ disintegration machine.

    If this non-policy for disposal is just one more ‘head in the sand’ approach, I can only imagine what the mo’s are regarding other products that by conscience should be recycled.
    Does anyone on the city council care?

  14. Lynne Says:

    Did you call Northeast Materials Handling? Their fees are really reasonable, if there are any.

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