Brockport e-recycler featured in new Smithsonian exhibit


BROCKPORT, N.Y. — Last Friday, Cellphones: Unseen Connections opened up at the Smithsonian, with a little help from a Brockport-based company.

For the past 23 years, e-recycling company Sunnking has been processing just about anything with a cord, battery, or screen. But before a piece of tech gets turned into spare parts, employees will first see if it can be repaired.

“If not we’ll break it down, and we’ll send off the materials inside to be made into something new,” Marketing Director Robert Burns said. “That is what was going to happen to these phones, until the museum came a-knockin’.”

Sunnking sent over 400 phones to be part of the new exhibit, which explores how cell phones have changed the world. In one portion, it features hundreds of old cell phones, hanging from strings, most of which were donated by the company. Among other things, the exhibit looks at the social, professional, and environmental impact of a phone.

“We’re kind of being outnumbered right now by electronics – in the world,” Burns said. “The most important thing, and I think the exhibit is really helpful with that, is to help everyone keep in the back of mind what we do with them when we’re done.”

Sunnking shared more than just phones with the Smithsonian – they also shared what floor manager Tammy Maxon does at the facility.

“Rob came to me, and I’m like ‘cool, why not?’” Maxon said about being in the exhibit.

Maxon has been working at Sunnking for 10 years. Now, her efforts to recycle all the used-up tech in the greater Rochester area will be on display. That information is up on the wall, right next to a life-sized photo of her.

A life-sized image of floor manager Tammy Maxon (right), printed for the exhibit. (Hailie Higgins/News10NBC)

When asked how seeing her photo made her feel, Maxon said, “It’s with the dinosaurs, the diamonds, all these other precious artifacts […] There’s, like I said, no words that can actually describe the feeling of that.”

Maxon and other Sunnking staff got to head down to D.C. to preview the exhibit last week. And next year, Maxon’s son will get to see it, too.

“Next year he’s going TO be going to Washington for his eighth grade field trip,” Maxon said. “You can’t even explain how that makes you feel as a mother.”

For everyone at Sunnking, getting their work memorialized was special.

“To know that Rochester and Brockport, New York has a place inside the most famous museum in our country [is indescribable],” Burns said.

But it also served as a reminder for them and other museum-goers:

“There’s 118 elements on the periodic table, and 65 of them are in the phones that we all have,” Burns said. “That’s half of what the earth is made of. That’s a lot of reusable material.”

The exhibit will run for the next three years. While donating your old tech to Sunnking won’t get it in an exhibit, it will keep it out of a landfill. The general public is welcome to drop their tech off at one of their donation bins outside the facility. Sunnking also runs several community collection days throughout upstate New York, from East Syracuse to Niagara Falls. On August 19, they will hold a collection day in Webster. Registration is required to donate. To sign up, click here.

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