News Archives

'Clean Sweep' results in tons of electronic waste

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Greg Peterson

The Rev. Margaret West (right) and church member Joanne Mingay (left) wrap old computers at Marquette (Mich.) Grace United Methodist Church.
April 26, 2006

By Greg Peterson*

MARQUETTE, Mich. (UMNS) -- Thousands of United Methodists in northern Michigan dug through their attics, basements and garages on Earth Day 2006 to find old and broken computers, televisions, cell phones and other electronics during the second annual Earth Keeper Clean Sweep.

The Rev. Grant Lobb, Marquette District superintendent for the denomination's Detroit Annual Conference, said he was excited to be part of ''another record-setting Clean Sweep.''

As of April 25, the total weight for electronics collected had been tallied at more than 300 tons.

''I witnessed some of the hard work that was going on at one of our United Methodist Church parking lots, and was impressed again to think of all that can be accomplished when like-minded people work together for a wonderful cause that indeed makes a difference in our world and in our beautiful Upper Peninsula,'' Lobb said.

Some 350-plus volunteers were key to the effort, according to Carl Lindquist, director of the Central Lake Superior Watershed Partnership.

Despite scattered to numerous rain showers and temperatures in the 40s, thousands of Upper Peninsula residents arrived at 27 official collections sites on April 22 with cars, vans and pickup trucks full of a wide variety of electronic waste, commonly called ''e-waste.''

The Rev. Charlie West, pastor of Marquette Grace United Methodist Church, said some of the computers and other e-waste ''were covered with dust and dirt and had been stored away for a long time in basements and garages and now finally they have an environmentally responsible way to get rid of it.''

''We have got Buddhists from the Lake Superior Zendo helping us, and we have enjoyed working together and it?s been a very nice effort,'' added West, co-coordinator of the first Clean Sweep in 2005.

An interfaith effort

The annual Clean Sweep is sponsored by the Central Lake Superior Watershed Partnership, nine faith communities with 130,000 members, the nonprofit Cedar Tree Institute and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Greg Peterson

The Rev. Charlie West (center) helps with the collection of old electronics during the Earth Keeper Clean Sweep.

The project involves more than 120 churches and temples representing the nine faith communities -- Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Unitarian Universalist, Bahá?í, Jewish and Zen Buddhist.

Lucy Shampo, collection site coordinator at Trinity United Methodist Church in Iron Mountain, said 56 pallets of e-waste were collected at her church.

She worked closely with local Presbyterian, Catholic and Lutheran churches, which provided volunteers, along with four high school students, to help unload the numerous vehicles filled with e-waste -- many from more than 30 miles away.

''It needs to be a community effort, and these are folks that understand volunteering and cooperation,'' Shampo said.

Phil Hansen, site coordinator at the Munising United Methodist Church, said his church parking lot quickly filled with e-waste. ''One man brought in a pickup load of old cordless phones and answering machines his father had collected over the years,'' he said. ''The typical drop-off was a person with an old computer and monitor that had been sitting around for years.

''We were pretty surprised at the number of old stereo systems that came in,'' Hansen added.

Positive response

Sue Martens, site coordinator and member of Mitchell United Methodist Church in Negaunee, said public reaction to the Clean Sweep was overwhelmingly positive.

''They are very happy to come, and they are telling their family and friends about it and asking if we are going to do it next year,'' she said.

Martens suggested other U.S. faith communities start similar projects. ''As people see what?s happening here and the word gets spread nationwide, it would be easy to duplicate,'' she said. The Earth Keeper team supplied all the boxes and pallets, she added.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS Web-only photo by Will Shampo

More than 56 pallets of electronic waste were collected April 22 at Trinity United Methodist Church in Iron Mountain, Mich.

The Rev. Eric Kieb, pastor of the Mitchell United Methodist Church in Negaunee, said the church decided to become a drop-off site because ''when we can provide a service like this, it?s a helpful thing for the community on a variety of levels.''

''The lazy, easy thing to do is just pitch it, the harder thing to do is to say, 'How can I responsibly dispose of this?''' Kieb said. ''When we don?t have things like this Clean Sweep regularly, it takes a little more work to find out how to get that stuff properly disposed of.''

Jenna Geueke, a Lutheran and Northern Michigan University Earth Keeper student team member who volunteered at the Mitchell church, said the three hours went by quickly because of the steady traffic.

''Within a half an hour, we filled up many pallets with monitors and boxes with other electronics. All morning, we?ve only had maybe a 10-minute lull,'' said Geueke, 19, of Marquette.

'A great idea'

Lutherans Terry and Sara Garceau of Negaunee praised the Mitchell site as they dropped off several computers, monitors, power cables, keyboards, a television and stereo.

''I think it's a great idea for anybody to bring their e-waste here, and I hate to think it was just going to end up in a landfill and contaminate the soil,'' said Sara Garceau.

Horses pulling drays were used to transport the e-waste from hotels and businesses on Mackinac Island, where motorized vehicles are prohibited. The Mackinac Island e-waste was sent by ferry to St. Ignace and trucked to a nearby official site.

The Earth Keeper Clean Sweep project is primarily funded by an Environmental Protection Agency grant, along with grants from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a Wisconsin-based, ecumenical, nonprofit financial services company.

''The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized the Earth Keepers as one of the most effective pollution prevention initiatives in the Great Lakes states, and today's e-waste collection confirms that,'' Lindquist said.

The waste collected in the Clean Sweep was taken to an EPA-approved recycling facility called Technology Asset Disposal in downstate Livonia, Mich.

For information about how to organize a ''clean sweep,'' call Lindquist at (906) 228-6095 or send an e-mail to

Related Articles
Event focuses on church?s role in caring for environment
Shanghai marks Earth Day
Earth Day (U.S. gov.)
Earth Day network
NCC Eco-Justice network
Earth Day worship resources
The Natural World