Teen's e-waste recycling program inspired by project at Fremont's Irvington High School

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- Nithu Carthikeyan is a junior at Irvington High School in Fremont. During his freshman year in 2017, a school project about electronic waste inspired him to create his own organization and spread awareness about recycling properly.

In 2019, the teen said his organization collected 20,000 pounds of e-waste.

"It's so impactful and not well-known. It's a big problem in the world and at least someone should try and spread awareness about it," Carthikeyan said.

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Through his website Keep Bay Area Beautiful, the 17-year-old creates drop-off drives at local libraries or parks in Fremont or Milpitas. His first drop-off location was the Milpitas Library.

"Just by like the first day, I would have to come every single day to just collect the electronic waste and drop it off," Carthikeyan said.

His donation box would be overflowing on a daily basis, so the library asked him to kindly take it out and they posted a list of nearby recycling centers instead.

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"Thanks to the community, I was able to collect all of the electronic waste because the people took the action, so it was not just me, it was a collective effort," Carthikeyan said.

Nithu says he doesn't blame anyone for recycling e-waste improperly, but hopes people become aware what happens if they do.

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"It's really underrated. It's so impactful in developing countries because the landfill of electronic waste that are not properly disposed, they go near kids that have to work in those landfills and because of the chemicals in the electronic waste, such as lead and mercury, it's very harmful. This can even lead to death. So the problem is not very many people know about it," Carthikeyan said.

With the help of his website and social media, he posts when he's holding drop-off drives at local parks or he coordinates with people when he can personally pickup old TVs, laptops, microwaves or any other e-waste materials. Depending on what is disposed, he's even sold parts online through eBay or Amazon and donated the money to House of Grace, a homeless shelter in San Jose.

Carthikeyan feels his generation has a platform to take a stand and help the environment. "I think with the younger generation, especially with technology, they have a voice that no other generation previously had."

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