Students lobby City Council to consider banning electronic waste at landfill

By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT

The city of Missoula may draft a new ordinance banning electronic waste from the local landfill, expanding on national efforts to curb the amount of items discarded by consumers and to increase electronic recycling.

Students from the Missoula International School made the request Wednesday as part of their ongoing research project, which includes finding solutions to today’s trash challenges.

“Our innovative solution is to create a law for Montana that would ban e-waste from landfills and increase e-waste recycling statewide,” said 10-year-old McKenna Summers. “This would protect the environment, preserve natural resources and protect wildlife and people.”

The students – each members of the Mt Recycles team that will compete this month in the First LEGO League world championship in St. Louis – have gained traction over the past few months.

Among their achievements, they won the statewide First LEGO League challenge in Bozeman, posted an e-waste information table at a recent garage sale, and have launched a website exploring electronic recycling.

More recently, they won the ear of Gov. Steve Bullock, who observed one of the team’s practices.

“The ban would include personal electronic devices, such as cell phones, tablets and music players,” said Summers. “It would be easy to understand, and it would create both an e-waste landfill ban and create a statewide recycling program.”

Dari Quirk, one of the team’s coaches, said the student’s have also researched national legislation on the topic. The team lobbied the City Council on Wednesday to consider adopting a local ordinance.

“Inspired by part of their research, the team is here today to propose that the city of Missoula, as a government agency, consider adopting an e-waste landfill disposal ban,” said Quirk. “The main points of the policy would be to lead by example.”

Last April in recognition of Earth Day, Opportunity Resources Inc. in Missoula opened a new e-waste recycling business. The new start-up, dubbed Opportunity E-Cycling, is the only certified electronic recycling business in the state.

Quirk said the city is situated to consider the local ordinance.

“We believe the city of Missoula is ideally poised to consider adopting a policy like this, because it could be incorporated into the city’s zero-waste plan,” Quirk said. “It seems like the correct thing to do, and Missoula has the first certified e-waste recycler in the state of Montana with Opportunity E-Cycling.”

The council said would consider acting on the request, but took no immediate action.

“I look forward to working on a policy for Missoula to not put e-waste into our landfill,” Ward 3 council member Marilyn Marler said. “It’s an important issue.”