Profile: Larry Zirkle
"People thought they were doing the right thing.
For thousands of years, villagers have been taught to bury their waste..." - Larry Zirkle, Total Reclaim, Inc.
When we think of waste burning in open pits and once pristine landscapes littered with old electronic equipment, what comes to mind are places in remote parts of the world, where the dumping of broken down electronics has been vividly documented.
But there is no need to travel to distant lands to see piles of burning waste, says Larry Zirkle of Total Reclaim, Inc., a Pacific Northwest company that specializes in environmentally sound recycling of computers, electronics and other hard-to-handle materials.
As close to home as rural Alaska, where Zirkle travels to teach villagers how to remove refrigerant from their refrigerators, there are heaps of metal waste, animal carcasses, computers and refrigerators piled high, sometimes being burned, with potentially appalling public health implications.
"People thought they were doing the right thing," Larry
"For thousands of years, villagers have been taught to bury their waste material or put it near the water to be washed away.
When this was all organic matter, there wasn't a problem.
But now that they're dealing with a different type of waste, they run the risk of releasing high levels of mercury, lead, and fecal bacteria into surrounding rivers."
, who is part Native American, left corporate America at the age of 47 and took it upon himself to travel to and educate rural native Alaskan communities about the impact of electronic waste on the environment and on a tribe's traditional values and way of life.
The problems of waste disposal are often compounded by the villages' remote locations, where the lack of transportation infrastructure can make even the disposal of recyclables a considerable challenge.
teaches villagers how to recover waste materials and repair broken appliances.
He also works with the EPA and others to find cost-efficient solutions to the waste challenge, such as developing recycling/recovery hubs along the coast so that villagers can drop off their waste in one place.