Replacing an old irrigation controller may mean increased water savings and sustainability, but doing so typically adds to the growing pile of discarded electronics taking up space in landfills.
Only 20 percent of electronic waste is recycled, but Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply, Rachio and Blue Star Recyclers launched a new pilot program focused on controller recycling in 10 Ewing locations in Colorado and Texas to improve this statistic. Now, the program is expanding to more locations across the country, bringing contractors a solution to answer the question, “What do I do with this old controller?”
Accepting the challenge to recycle controllers
Before co-owner Patty Sipe was introduced to the recycling program, Heads Up Sprinkler Co. in Plano, Texas, either used old controllers for training purposes or disposed of them. An all-too-common practice in the industry, she knew there had to be a better way.
“We’re very excited to participate in and promote this e-waste program,” Sipe said. “What a great message and action for our clients and our world.”
Contractors, municipalities, sports fields professionals or anyone with an old controller can simply bring any controller ready for retirement to a participating Ewing location and drop it in the box or give it to a Ewing Service Professional.
“The program is a great example of Rachio and Ewing’s commitment to supporting landscape contractors and our environment,” said Nate Bednarik, owner of Bednarik Sprinklers in Fort Collins, Colo.
What happens next?
Ewing ships the old controllers to Blue Star Recyclers, with support from Rachio. Then, the fun begins!
Blue Star Recyclers is a Colorado-based non-profit founded in 2009 to recycle electronics and other materials, while creating jobs for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or physical limitations.
In less than five minutes, each controller is made shred-ready by a Blue Star employee. This “shred-ready” process means older or larger controllers are disassembled and newer, smaller controllers have batteries removed. The base materials are then shredded, processed and made ready for remanufacturing. Manufacturers can then purchase the processed materials to make new products.
Benefits for the contractor and the homeowner
As homeowners look for modern irrigation solutions, they are increasingly asking for smart controllers that enable remote control by smartphone or simple schedule management.
“With the increased demand for Wi-Fi-based equipment that we are experiencing, the recycling program will allow our company to easily—and responsibly—dispose of hundreds of old controllers this year that would have otherwise ended up in landfills,” said Bednarik.
The Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller waters based on past, present and future weather conditions and includes seasonal adjustments, with a four-year extended warranty on professionally installed controllers. Compatible with most smart home systems, homeowners often flock to this product.
“When homeowners throw their hands up in the air and say they really need help, Rachio is there to help them mitigate that and help them know when to water,” Sipe said, adding that the recycling program is one more benefit homeowners can find. “Rachio is going out of their way to support this e-waste recycling program.”
As an irrigation repair company, each installation of a new Rachio controller comes with an old controller for Sipe’s company to dispose of. Now, all employees stash the old controller in the truck to bring to the shop, so the next time someone makes a Ewing run, they can grab the old controllers to recycle.
A step toward sustainability
Whether a controller is large or small, recycling is a solution that will save space in landfills and prevent chemicals from leaching into the water supply. By recycling replaced controllers, you aren’t just emptying your truck, you’re creating a second life for these products—and building a more sustainable future.
For every 1,000 pounds of controllers recycled by Blue Star Recyclers*
Hazardous materials (heavy metals) diverted from landfills: 28 lbs.
Greenhouse gas emission reductions: 1,394 lbs. (by recycling versus mining new virgin materials)
Days of employment: 1.3 days
Taxpayer savings: $79.51
*Information provided by Blue Star Recyclers.