A series of small failures

the latest dilemma–recycling a television
December 15, 2008, 10:09 pm
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I’ve written articles on eco-friendly recycling of electronics. I know that it’s not cool to bring old televisions, computers, cell phones, etc. to the dump. It’s definitely not cool to just throw them away. All that chemical goodness that makes electronics work — mercury, lead, hexavalent chromium, etc. — leaches into the ground and pollutes the area around, taints the groundwater, and poisons the earth. I know all that.

What’s shocking is that apparently, here in Utah, people don’t know that. Or just don’t care.

I did a little research, trying to find a place to safely dispose of  my mom’s old television I’d been using, which finally went kaput. 

here’s a nice link: http://earth911.com/blog/2007/04/19/throw-away-your-television/

The site says: “Don’t throw away your television. Recycle it!”  OK, I’m sold.  The trouble is finding a recycling center that will dispose of a non-working television correctly. Throwing it away is bad on so many levels.

On the earth911.com site, when I entered “television” into the space that asks what you want to recycle, followed by my zip code, it gave me lots of listings for Office Depot. I have to call them tomorrow, but i suspect they don’t take televisions, because the link to televisions is broken. Earth911 lists a thrift store called Community Thrift, in Provo, but their site says it only takes working televisions. Mine is broken. The television may be fixable, but i can’t be sure. I even posted something on craigslist (which usually works for me) but no one was interested in coming to pick up an old unworking television. The Trans-Jordan landfill, in Jordan, may accept televisions from residences. It’s unclear. I’m calling them tomorrow.

It looks like the best bet is the Park City Conservation Foundation, dba Recycle Utah. It’s only 23.3 miles from my house. It’s open 24 hours! I can take the television anytime.

Hello? How many televisions are disposed of each year in Utah? How about in the Salt Lake area? And there’s one place we can take them? I’m sure most end up in the dumpster, in landfill, and are polluting our pretty, great state. It would be really easy to just throw my television in the dumpster. And so wrong.

And there are so many other electronics getting thrown away each year. I reread an article I wrote a couple of years ago, and found this:

‘Personal computers, network servers, routers, hubs, telephones, and cables are made with heavy metals and chemicals that are toxic. Cadmium is found in semiconductors. Lead is used in glass panels in computer monitors as well as solder on circuit boards. Mercury is a component of circuit boards, telecommunications equipment, and cell phones. And flame retardants are found on circuit boards and plastic coverings.

Computer equipment is not biodegradable, and the materials that computers are made of pose a threat to public health, environmental groups say. When put into landfills, these chemicals can harm the environment, either by leaching into the water supply or, if incinerated, traveling through the air.

Consider the problem of PCs alone. According to the Gartner Group, consumers and businesses will replace more than 800 million PCs worldwide through 2009. Gartner estimates that they will attempt to dispose of 64 percent of these computers, or 512 million.

“Most organizations upgrade PCs every three to four years,” says Frances O’Brien, a Gartner analyst. “In 2006, we estimate that there will be 100 million obsolete business PCs worldwide.” That’s not counting the other electronic equipment being replaced as companies upgrade to newer, more advanced technology.’

I love quoting myself.

And when you think you’ve found a good place to unload your toxic waste, you’re not done. Do a little more research. From my article: 

‘It’s also a good idea to do some research before choosing a recycling company. A recent report, entitled “The Digital Dump,” by The Basel Action Network, identifies unethical practices by recyclers.  For example, some companies send outdated computers to Africa, claiming to help bridge the digital divide, but in reality creating a digital dump, burdening developing companies with a disproportionate amount of toxic cyber waste that ends up in landfill, polluting the water supply or air.’

(here’s a link to the full story: http://ciostrategycenter.com/Board/initiatives/going_green_it/index.html)

If anyone knows of other resources for disposing of toxic electronics in Utah, please let me know! I don’t want to throw my television away.