Television Recycling: Spring 2016 Update

–APRIL 2016 UPDATE—
With recent DEP policy changes, PRC is now able to accept televisions at all Hard-to-Recycle Collection Events beginning with the May 14th, 2016 Event. Find more information here.

After a recent clarification by the DEP regarding Act 108, PRC will be able to collect televisions at all Hard to Recycle Collection Events beginning with the May 14th event for a fee. Please click here for more information about the recent update and the text below for more information about electronics recycling.

12 Things to Know

1. The Law Affects 100% But Only Serves 25%

Since 2013, PA’s Covered Device Recycling Act has made it illegal for every Pennsylvanian to send a TV to a landfill, yet only 25% of residents currently have access to free recycling of their televisions. Click here for a list of all manufacturer collection sites published by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (NOT ALL SITES ACCEPT TV’S – CALL FIRST)

2. If It’s Not Your Concern Today, It Will Be Soon

TV makers assume a 5-to-7-year replacement cycle for televisions, according to the Consumer Technology Association.  So if you don’t need to dispose of a TV this year, you’re bound to face the dilemma in the near future.

3. TVs Account For 74% of E-Waste Collected at PRC EventsPW8GgEx

In 2015, PRC collected 500,000 pounds of e-waste at 6 collection events – with TVs representing 74% of the 250 tons of material dropped off by 3,500 households.

4. Demand is Growing; Volume of TVs Doubled in 2 Years

The volume of TVs dropped off at PRC e-waste collections has doubled in the past 2 years:  250 tons of e-waste collected in 2015 vs. 125 tons collected in 2013.  During the first 11 years of PRC’s collection program, it collected a total of 1 million pounds of electronics – but it collected ½ million pounds in 2015 alone!

5. Recyclers Bear the Brunt of Expense

While PA is 1 of 25 states with legislation to keep e-waste out of landfills, PA is 1 of only 5 states where the law has caused recyclers to bear the brunt of expense.  Recyclers say the per-pound fees they receive from manufacturers to collect electronics on their behalf are flat and the prices of selling metals and other parts have declined.

6. Formula for Quota is Unrealistic

The law specifies that each electronics manufacturer must collect for recycling an amount of electronics whose weight is equal to what it sold in the state two years earlier.  Experts point out that old electronics are much heavier than products manufacturers sold two years ago, setting the law’s weight requirements too low.  (i.e. a cathode-ray tube TV produced a decade ago is now ready for disposal but the weight formula accounts for a much lighter flatscreen TV produced two years ago)

7. The Environment is at Risk

Televisions are more expensive to recycle because only a few companies worldwide take the glass from lead-based cathode-ray tubes in old models and computer monitors.  Estimates show 77 million CRT televisions are being stockpiled in U.S. homes, pointing to a need to responsibly recycle 269,000 tons of lead (average of 7 pounds of lead per TV).

8. Law Has Not Resulted in A Dependable Infrastructure

Act 108 required the manufacturers of TVs and computers to pay the costs of providing residents with free and convenient recycling alternatives. But the law has not led to the creation of a dependable, statewide infrastructure for local governments, collectors and recyclers to provide recycling services continually, according to a 2015 DEP report presented to the PA General Assembly.  This failure is the direct result of manufacturers underfunding the cost of recycling.

9. Disposal Options are Quickly Shrinking

Best Buy, which began offering free electronics recycling in 2009, stopped taking TVs and computer monitors in Pennsylvania in February 2016.  Construction Junction and Goodwill have suspended TV recycling, and of Allegheny County’s 130 municipalities, only 35 offer electronics recycling through their waste haulers.

10. Catch-22 – Many Accepting “Working Televisions Only”HTR - TV image

While most residents are seeking disposal options for TVs that are no longer in working condition, individuals must investigate limitations.  In 5 southeastern PA counties, only 21% of manufacturer collection locations will accept non-working TVs with no restrictions.

11. PRC is Committed to “E-Stewards” Certification

The electronics recycling industry has the potential to do great harm to public health and to the environment.  Irresponsible recyclers have been caught shipping these hazardous materials to Third World nations that are unable to regulate their handling.  As a result, rigorous third-party certification programs have been developed to ensure people and the environment are protected from these risks.  PRC is committed to working only with recyclers who meet the strict requirements of the eStewards certification.  While other certification standards exist, only eStewards ensures both people AND the environment are protected.

12. Residents Must Speak Up to Ask Legislature To Amend “Act 108”

Contact your state senator and representative asap to tell them to support an amendment to the law that ensures all residents of PA have convenient and free access to recycling their TVs.

Why Recycle Your TV

Pennsylvanians, and all residents should definitely recycle their televisions and other electronics. Electronics, especially materials like older Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Televisions are full of toxic materials including:

  • Lead – neurotoxin
    • Found in the glass of a CRT (4-12 lbs per TV)
    • Used in TVs to shield against radiation and increase optical quality
  • Cadmium – carcinogen
    • Found in the CRT
    • Substance that exhibits phosphorescence
  • Berryllium – carcinogen
    • Used as an electrical connector in circuit boards/insulator for microproccesors
  • PVC – plastic
    • Toxic when burned
    • Plastic found in TV casings
  • Brominated Flame Retardants – possible endocrine disruptor
    • Found in the circuit boards and in the plastic casing
  • Mercury – toxin – causes brain and kidney damage
    • Some CRTs contain mercury and many flat panel TVs contain several mercury lamps to light the screen

Given the 77 million CRT TVs that remain in American households, as much as 269,000 pounds of lead (a documented neurotoxin) is sitting right in our own homes! These numbers do not even include the materials from other electronics such as computers, printers, refrigerators, and more.

If these electronics are improperly disposed of, these chemicals can leach into our groundwater, soil, and air, eventually making their ways back into our drinking water, lungs, and otherwise harming our families and our local environment. If these electronics are improperly recycled they may end up overseas where substandard working conditions lead to even greater environmental and health impacts.

How Many TVs Are There?

The Consumer Electronics Association estimated in 2014 that more than 77 million old style tube TV’s remain in American households waiting to be recycled or disposed of. TV makers assume a 5-to-7-year replacement cycle for televisions, according to the Consumer Technology Association., which means that the number of televisions in need of proper recycling and disposal is only going to increase in the coming years.

DEP Drop-Off Information

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has provided a list of municipalities, organizations, and businesses that are identified by manufacturers as locations where consumers can recycle electronics. PRC has verified the list and broken it into three categories

  1. Sites accepting TV’s with some restrictions (size, number, residency etc)
  2. Sites accepting TV’s with no restrictions
  3. Sites not Accepting TV’s

Click here to view the list.

Of almost 350 sites on the list less than 50 accept TV’s!

 

Environmental Standards

At all of our Hard-to-Recycle Collection Events, PRC works with certified e-Stewards to ensure that our electronics are recycled responsibly.

e-Stewards do not export electronics to developing nations, prohibit the disposal of e-waste into landfills and incinerators, tests for hazardous materials within the e-waste to protect their workers, and refuse to utilize prison labor to process hazardous e-waste.

You can find more information about the e-Stewards Certification vs. other recycling options here.

How Do Other States Handle TVs

Over the past 12 years, 28 states and the District of Columbia have passed some sort of e-waste laws. These laws range in scope and depth, and some have enjoyed more success than others.

Many states utilize landfill bans, which simply prohibit most e-waste from entering landfills and/or incinerators. Other states, like California, set up a system to fund recycling services for electronic items, allowing retailers to collect fees to pay for the recycling of items. Other states require television and computer monitor manufactures to divert those items from landfills and pay for their disposal. (Maine.)  This type of system is known as extended producer responsibility (EPR), which Maryland, Washington, Michigan, and Hawaii have used as well. In Utah, manufacturers are responsible for educating consumers about where they can recycle unwanted electronics. Many of these states also prohibit certain chemicals from being included in electronic devices.

Other states such as Texas, used a computer take-back program. and Wisconsin and Indiana set statewide recycling targets.

What Can I Do?

It’s time to speak up regarding the need for convenient TV recycling options.

PRC will continue to aggressively pursue a solution to this crisis by working with the PA legislature, manufacturers, recyclers, our partners and YOU!  As supporters and users of PRC programs, your voice is critical in guaranteeing that we improve the CDRA to ensure that consumers have free and convenient access to safe and responsible outlets for their old electronics.

Make your voice heard by calling, emailing or writing your state legislators to ask them to support an amendment to the CDRA that secures a permanent solution for the end of life management of old electronics, especially TVs. Use this link to find your legislator and find a sample message below to send to your State Senator and State Representative.

Sample Message to State Legislators

As a resident of Pennsylvania, I am concerned about the lack of free and convenient recycling options for responsibly disposing of televisions and other e-waste. I ask the Pennsylvania Legislature to pass an amendment to Act 108 (Covered Device Recycling Act) to provide free e-waste recycling for all residents of the Commonwealth. Please support this vital piece of legislation.