E-waste recyclers struggle to keep up with influx of old TV sets

SALT LAKE CITY — Flat screens or curved screens are in; the old models are out. So, what should you do with your older model TV? Turns out, recyclers nationwide are struggling to keep up with all the old-time sets they’re receiving. Nationwide, cathode-ray (CRT) televisions are being thrown away by the millions. “If we don’t take them and recycle them and do what’s right with them, then someone will just dump them in the desert or dump them in a field somewhere,” said Steve Young, general manager of METech Recycling in Salt Lake City.

Which is why Young said it’s important for everyone to decide to dispose of the old CRT sets properly and safely. His company contracts with Salt Lake County and the State of Utah, along with several businesses, taking in thousands of tons in old TV’s each year. Many of them are now stockpiled inside the MetTech warehouse, 2350 Bridger Road.

It’s tough to keep up. Last year alone, MetTech recycled about 6 million pounds of e-waste.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans buy nearly 440 million new electronics each year and produce about 2.4 million tons of e-waste — only about 25 percent of which actually gets recycled. The rest gets trashed.or put in storage.

“Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the U.S.,” said Pat Sheehan, with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.

Sheehan said there’s very little use nowadays for the CRT glass, which contains lead. If materials like this are not disposed of properly, they can harm the environment and potentially end up in our drinking water.

“The recycling market for that material has kind of dropped through the floor,” Sheehan said.

That means recyclers like MetTech often lose money on each TV they break apart, and repurpose. They sell off each material separately, eventually melting down the lead-filled glass for the few buyers that will still take it.

“It’s tough,” said MetTech account executive Scott Kay. “A lot of times we’re bringing in more than we ship out. So, for the plant it’s always a constant balancing act.”

Read more here!

February 16, 2015
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