As every landscaping contractor knows, old irrigation sprinkler controllers wear out over time. When they break down, they’re removed and discarded, ending up in the garbage and ultimately finding their way to a local landfill. But it can take hundreds if not thousands of years for the parts to decompose. However, since most irrigation controllers are manufactured with recyclable materials, it’s possible to find a secondary purpose for these old units.
A One-of-a-Kind Recycling Program
Sustainability and community outreach coexist as part of our foundation at Ewing. Our Irrigation Controller Recycling Program is one of our flagship sustainability and community outreach initiatives. Along with partners Hunter Industries and Blue Star Recyclers, a Colorado based non-profit, the program merges sustainable electronics waste management with employment opportunities for those with autism or other disabilities. By working together to collect unwanted irrigation controllers, this partnership recycles metals, plastics and other parts that would normally wind up in a landfill.
After the initial pilot program in 2015, we’re up to a total of 31 Ewing branches participating in the program. In 2019 alone, we recycled 5,378 pounds of controllers! We would like to increase the amount to 11,000 pounds over the next five years, and that’s where you come in.
How It Works
Bins dedicated to the program are placed at participating branch locations. Check with your local Ewing branch ahead of time to verify their participation. Then when you replace an old controller, instead of throwing it away, bring it into the branch and place it in the bin. It’s that simple! The controllers we collect are shipped to Blue Star and disassembled so the components can be recycled, with Ewing and Hunter co-sponsoring the shipping costs.
Blue Star hires people with autism and other disabilities based on their aptitude and attitude for the careful, detailed, repetitive work of recycling electronics and other materials. Many of their employees come from the Cherry Creek School District’s Transition Program where young adults with special needs can learn Blue Star’s recycling process. Over the past 10 years, Blue Star has recycled 14 million pounds of electronics.
The Big Picture Benefits
We asked Eliot Chaffee, Branch Manager at Ewing North Mesa, why his branch participates in our Irrigation Controller Recycling Program:
We participate because it gives people opportunity. We see the big picture of the program, that locally we are reducing waste and helping the environment, while on a larger scale, providing jobs and a safe work environment to people who may not have the ability to find something like Blue Star. By providing our recycled controllers to Blue Star, we are giving people meaning, confidence and the ability to be part of a team. It’s really a great program in my opinion. I look at it as I’m giving away old controllers to give someone pride, and that’s pretty amazing to me. Sometimes it’s hard to feel like you have a purpose and if it takes an old, dirty controller for someone to have that fulfilled, then sign me up.
With active participation from professional contractors, there’s the potential to double our efforts and keep more controllers out of landfills.
Kyle Luis, Branch Manager at Ewing Pinnacle Peak, explained it this way:
The controller recycling program is going well for us. It is an advantage for us to have this program. It often gives our contractors a way to get rid of old material that would otherwise fill landfills with more waste, and we can reuse the precious metals and other parts that go into timers and make better use of them. Especially in times like this where more and more things seem to be harder to source and acquire, the more we can help, the better! For our team, I think it also ties [into] our sustainable focus as a company, into the branch and gives our team another avenue to reach out and talk to our customers about why we have the program and the benefits included with it.
Along with Hunter and Blue Star, we are proud to be part of this integrated approach to environmental sustainability. We look forward to continuing to drive the program for many years to come. For more information about how you can participate, visit our website or stop by your local Ewing branch today.