Nithurhan Carthikeyan is on a mission.

Not only did he start an e-waste (“electronic waste”) program at the Milpitas Public Library, allowing anyone in the community to drop off unwanted electronics in need of disposal, but he also has big plans for the future.

And he’s only 16 years old.

Since last September, he’s been showing up at the Milpitas Library twice a week to pick up electronic waste items like computers and printers. Per his program, boxes are left out at the library, along with a sign letting people know that they’re free to leave their e-waste. His father helps him load what’s there into the car, then they take it to places like Staples, which offers free electronic recycling.

“Physically, it’s kind of grueling. But it’s worth it,” said Carthikeyan, who’s also entertaining plans to pick up e-waste in other areas. “The biggest thing about e-waste is that residents are too busy. It’s too much work to go to the recycling centers. It takes a lot of time, so this makes it easier for them.”

A sophomore at Irvington High School in Fremont, Carthikeyan was given a class assignment to go out and do something to help the environment. So he and other students in his class got together and began distributing flyers around Fremont, letting people know that they would pick up and dispose of e-waste. After seeing the positive response, Carthikeyan resolved to continue the process, even after the assignment was done.

“My friends and I did the project for one month. I didn’t know much about e-waste and thought it was pointless. But after research, I saw how it was affecting us, and less developed nations. Kids are getting exposed to it, and it’s killing them,” said Carthikeyan. “Many young kids in less developed nations are forced to work at a young age, and the landfills are actually dumped in these environments. So these kids touch them and are exposed to them regularly. Such chemicals as lead and mercury rub off on them, and create many health defects.”

Although Carthikeyan and his family live in Fremont, the Milpitas Library is the one closest to their home.

Given the library’s visibly high traffic, Carthikeyan figured, Why not make it convenient for everyone and set up his free e-waste program there?

His idea was right on the money. Every week, on average, Carthikeyan collects between 200-300 pounds of e-waste. This one student’s work makes a major impact on our community.

So much so that at last night’s Milpitas City Council meeting, Carthikeyan received a commendation.

Carthikeyan’s goals and ambitions aren’t just limited to the environment and public health. In the future, he would also like to start a free tutoring program for middle and high school students.

L to R: Councilmember Bob Nuñez, Councilmember Anthony Phan, Councilmember Carmen Montano, Vice Mayor Karina Dominguez, Nithurhan Carthikeyan, and Mayor Rich Tran
Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works with nonprofit organizations to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also an author; her first book will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in mid-2019. Her YouTube channel, which features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment, has amassed thousands of subscribers. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s founder.

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