Jennifer van der Meer

TAKEBACK MY TV: Think Before You Recycle

by , 11/29/07

TAKEBACK MY TV: Think Before You Recycle, Basel Action Network, Chinese kids sitting on e-waste, E waste, Electronics waste, electronics landfill, toxic tech, electronic waste in china, Take back my TV © Basel Action Network 2006

The tale of what happens to your old, forgotten television sets is sad, shocking, and may even turn you off from the very idea of recycling your gadgets. So before we begin, let’s start out by noting that there are responsible ways to recycle or decommission your old TVs and other electronics waste that you have sitting in your garage or storage closets. We’ll get there. But first – take a look at the recent TakeBack My TV campaign, brought to you by the Basel Action Network


E-Waste in Landfills:
What we know – according to the EPA, over 87% of our electronics waste in the US is simply trashed – sent directly from street corners and curbs to landfills. Lead, mercury, cadmium, PVC, brominated flame retardants are all present in aging TV sets and other electronics and can pose a serious health hazard if leaked into the environment. One old CRT TV alone can include up to 8 pounds of lead. While in the US, the prevalence of e-waste is commonplace, the European Union takes an entirely different stance. An EU-wide ban makes it illegal to put an old TV out on the curb, since heavy metals inside qualify as hazardous waste.

E-Waste Exported to Developing Countries:
Of the 12.5% of electronics waste that is recycled, an estimated 50% to 80% (400,000 to 800,000 tons of e-waste) is exported to the developing world. Workers young and old in Nigeria, China, and India use hammers, gas burners, and bare hands to take apart e-waste and extract the more valuable materials, exposing themselves, the local environment, and surrounding inhabitants to a toxic mix of hazardous chemicals.

While many governments abroad have banned dumping of e-waste, the desire for second-hand electronics keeps a steady stream of junk coming into these countries at an increasingly alarming rate. Basel Action Network’s Jim Puckett says that in practice, exporters exploit the re-use category to avoid disposal costs, promising to bridge the digital divide. These same exporters often win bids to provide “free” recycling services here in the US. These gadget take-backs are organized by local governments, schools, and even non-profits in events surrounding Earth Day, and the truth behind where these devices wind up is not made transparent to the organizers. Taking advantage of the newfound awareness of consumers to responsibly dispose of their gadgets, these recyclers are committing a crime much worse than greenwashing – they are outsourcing pollution and hazardous toxic waste to the developing world.

TAKEBACK MY TV: Think Before You Recycle, Basel Action Network, Chinese kids sitting on e-waste, E waste, Electronics waste, electronics landfill, toxic tech, electronic waste in china, Take back my TV, prison labor, ctbc.jpg

E-Waste and Prison Labor:
The more surprising finding of what happens to your old electronics: many are sent to prison-based recycling plants throughout the US, in places like Fort Dix, NJ to Tuscon, AZ. The federal government is the largest customer of prison recycling programs, and the owner of prison recycling plant is a wholly owned subsidiary of Federal Prison Industries, which is part of the US Department of Justice. Prisoners are excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act and are not well protected by OSHA and other government agencies set up to monitor workplace safety. While guards and prisoners alike have protested the conditions at e-waste recycling programs, the practice is likely to continue as more local governments ban hazardous chemicals from entering landfills. More responsible recyclers that pay their workers a living wage and payroll tax cannot compete with the $0.23 to $1.15 wage paid to prisoners under these government-owned recycling plants.

The Commitment

The TakeBack My TV program asks manufacturers to take responsibility for the entire life of the products they manufacture, and Sony USA has already committed to the Electronics TakeBack Coalition’s “Manufacturers Commitment to Responsible E-Waste Recycling.” Sony has committed to these three principles for handling the e-waste they collect for recycling:

• No dumping toxic e-waste on developing countries
• No use of prison labor in electronics recycling
• No disposal of toxic e-waste in landfills or incinerators

While other leading electronics manufacturers such as Dell and HP have established partial recycling programs, Sony is the only company to offer unlimited free take back and recycling for ALL of its products in the US through a growing network of collection locations. More importantly, all older Sony products are grandfathered into this service; collection is not contingent on a new purchase.

TAKEBACK MY TV: Think Before You Recycle, Basel Action Network, African kids sitting on e-waste, E waste, Electronics waste, electronics landfill, toxic tech, electronic waste in china, Take back my TV, boy.jpg © Basel Action Network 2006

What you can do:

Consumer Activism:
If you are interested in participating as a consumer activist, the TakeBack My TV campaign has a political-style email you can send to the CEOs of the major electronics manufacturers: Speak Out.

Write Your Friendly Local or National Politican:

States have already begun to adopt legislation similar to the EU’s stance on hazardous e-Waste. See if your state representatives have submitted similar legislation banning waste from landfills or banning the exportation of hazardous waste to developing countries. The US is the only country who has not yet ratified the Basel Convention – a commitment of rich world nations to deal with their own hazardous waste and forbid exportation to developing countries. Write your favorite presidential candidate for next year’s elections, and let them know that this issue matters to you.

Design for Change:
If you work as an industrial designer, engineer, product developer, or marketer in the consumer electronics industry, consider the entire lifecycle of a product when you are planning your next product launch. Speak to your client or your employer about the opportunities for innovation for greener, more environmentally sound design solutions that are good for people and the planet.

Responsible Purchase:
Whether you work in or influence a corporate IT department, or are interested in finding a lower impact machine, there are tools available to find more responsible products and companies.

Recycle Wisely:
If you are interested in simply finding a responsible company to take back your aging TVs and other electronics, the Electronics Take Back Coalition has a list of qualified recycling companies for you to work with. Many of these companies will charge a fee for recycling your used electronics – but until all manufacturers absorb the cost of recycling into their business model, the only safe way to dispose of these machines is to pay for their disassembly and effective recycling.

Organize:
If you are involved in local community work or volunteer your time at a local school or non-profit, consider working with a responsible recycler to organize a smart e-waste take-back initiative.

+ Basel Action Network
+ Electronics TakeBack Coalition

TAKEBACK MY TV: Think Before You Recycle, Basel Action Network, people sitting on e-waste, E waste, Electronics waste, electronics landfill, toxic tech, electronic waste in china, Take back my TV, wireburningvillagesorting_pic.jpg © Basel Action Network 2006

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13 Comments

  1. Harrison Linsey July 31, 2011 at 4:27 am

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  2. Recycling « let&#... March 17, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    [...] Take them to a special drop-off event or scrap dealer.  Odds are, the junk will then be dismantled under unsafe working conditions by prisoners or workers in developing [...]

  3. Zero Energy and Green B... March 12, 2008 at 10:50 am

    [...] If all of the ideas and concepts that were highlighted at the Greener Gadgets Conference were rolled into one product it would look and operate like the LINC Lifestyle Concept Phone from The Greener Grass. This team of forward thinking conceptual designers has envisioned a touch screen smart phone that puts complete connectivity into the hands of the mobile consumer without the social and environmental burden of e-waste. [...]

  4. Inhabitat » LINC ... March 11, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    [...] If all of the ideas and concepts that were highlighted at the Greener Gadgets Conference were rolled into one product it would look and operate like the LINC Lifestyle Concept Phone from The Greener Grass. This team of forward thinking conceptual designers has envisioned a touch screen smart phone that puts complete connectivity into the hands of the mobile consumer without the social and environmental burden of e-waste. [...]

  5. FreeElectronicsRecycling January 25, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Please remeber some of us recyclers really are doing the right thing. Any one of my clients is welcome to visit our recycling facility. Where all e-waste is brought back to their raw materials and then sold for remaufactured electronics. My FREE drop off facility is located at 73 South Buchanan Cir. Pacheco CA 94553 or visit http://www.DumpMyTV.com for more information

  6. TAKEBACK MY TV: Think B... December 3, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    [...] or decommission your old TVs and other electronics waste that you have sitting in your garage.read more | digg [...]

  7. Bob Holness December 3, 2007 at 3:23 am

    Responding to Jess and agreeing with Jonce and Adam, and disagreeing with Fred and signing a certificate of marriage with Debbie’s sister, these elements tend to be found in ore, where they are mixed with large amounts of other minerals.

  8. Chat Marchet News Diges... December 3, 2007 at 2:50 am

    [...] It gets better, click here for the story. This entry was posted on Monday, December 3rd, 2007 at 3:13 am and is filed under le Chat Marchet. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. [...]

  9. Jonce December 3, 2007 at 12:12 am

    Responding to Jess and agreeing with Adam: Its true that lead and mercury are natural elements of the earth but the problem is that these elements seep into fragile water systems poisoning them. You forgot to mention the other elements cited in the article that most e-waste consists of “cadmium, PVC, brominated flame retardant”… Tell me where there is a quarry where PVC can be dug up.

  10. Adam Davidson December 1, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    In response to the prior post from Jess: Those elements are not often found in such concentrations that may be leaching off of these sites. Furthermore, it is even less common for them to be at the surface. This article speaks of a good cause, but one that is merely a symptom of the bigger problem (addressed in the article) about manufacturer responsibility to create a cradle to cradle product.

  11. Think Before You Recycl... December 1, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    [...] Think Before You Recycle Published December 1, 2007 Environment / Sustainability A point to remember when you recycle.  Read the article from inhabitat. [...]

  12. links for 2007-12-01 &l... November 30, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    [...] E-Waste: Think Before You Recycle The tale of what happens to your old, forgotten television sets is sad, shocking, and may even turn you off from the very idea of recycling your gadgets. (tags: eco green e-waste recycle toxins hazardouswaste) [...]

  13. jess November 30, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    “Lead, mercury, cadmium, PVC, brominated flame retardants are all present in aging TV sets and other electronics and can pose a serious health hazard if leaked into the environment. One old CRT TV alone can include up to 8 pounds of lead.”

    while i agree with this campaign, where do you think lead and mercury come from? they come from the planet… in a weird convoluted way thats kind of like saying you cant put dirt on dirt…

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