TV Recycling

By guest writer, M. J.

In many parts of Europe, TV recycling is a legal requirement.

It was set out by the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive (WEEE) for the 25 EU member states, and became EU law in February 2002. Most of the EU member countries were late in complying with the operational deadline of 13 August 2004, including countries like the UK (16 July, 2005) and Germany (24 March, 2006). This difficulty was largely to do with the lack of infrastructure in the various countries for collecting the electronic waste and the difficulties encountered in providing new facilities and services required.

In America, TV recycling is not a legal requirement although based on a 2008 electronic recycling guideline, some states are making it mandatory.

As more and more people are trying to live greener lives, many people are beginning to want to send their TV for recycling on their own accord.

The importance of TV recycling can not be ignored for three main reasons.

The first reason why TV recycling is important is that electronic waste on the whole is the fastest growing rubbish stream in the world. As an example, in the US in 2007: “Americans had accumulated 99 million TVs in storage and discarded nearly 27 million TVs.” But approximately only 18 percent were recycled. “Between 2004 and 2007, the number of TVs that entered the waste stream increased by 14 percent.” (source: EPA)

We are producing electronic waste at a faster rate today, partly because of the rapidly growing technological growth we are experiencing today. New technologies are born faster than old appliances dying. This means that we discard our old electronic gadgets not because they have stopped working, but because they have become obsolete, or because they are no longer the fastest, the largest, the prettiest, or the best.

With the large quantity of electronic waste being discarded daily, our landfills are running out of space. Moreover, the television sets sent to landfills also leak harmful substances into the environment. This leads us to the second reason for TV recycling – pollution.

Televisions were identified by The Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive as hazardous waste. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources further confirms the harm that television sets can cause to landfills – “ if landfilled or incinerated, these chemicals can be released into groundwater, surface water, or the air where they pose a risk to human and environmental health.”

There are components and chemicals within televisions which can cause soil pollution and water pollution when disposed of in the landfills. Some of the harmful materials in televisions include lead, chromium, mercury, and polybrominated flame retardants. Lead is present in the specialised glass of Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) products like TV and computer monitors, as the lead is used to protect users from the x-rays generated while the tubes are in operation.

The third reason for television recycling is that the television set contains valuable, reusable materials. For example, plastics, scrap metal (including copper and gold), glass and many other materials can be extracted from old television sets.

If these materials are left in landfills or incinerated, they pollute the environment. Hence, it only makes sense to salvage these components and reuse them in making new TVs or products, instead of extracting virgin materials from the ground to manufacture the new items. This is especially the case since many of the components might not have served a full “work-life”, given that electronics today are often discarded before they break down. Read about the reasons why recycling is important.

In 1998, the Common Sense Initiative (CSI) Council submitted a proposal that encouraged the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to revise its guidance on TV recycling to make the recycling of CRT easier.

The CRT recycling process was to involve separating the glass from other components of the TV set, removing coatings from the glass, sorting the glass and returning the glass to CRT glass manufacturers, who could use up to 300,000 tons of recycled CRT glass annually. This could translate to recycling capacity for tens of millions of TV and computer monitors (source: EPA).

Read more about television recycling, as well as other electronics recycle efforts.

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