Mountain of discarded TVs grows

16:00, Nov 02 2012
tv xs
TUBE TOMB: Gary Fox among hundreds of TV tubes ready for recycling by the RCN Group in Seaview.

That chunky old television that looks like a heap of junk could end up in anything from a toaster to a golf course.

Roading aggregate and bunker sand can be made from recycled screen glass, while copper from around the electron gun can go into cabling for toasters and kettles. High-grade degaussing iron wire framing the front of the screen can be recast as nails, nuts and bolts.

Extracted circuit boards end up in Japan, where precious metals such as gold and silver are recycled into new generations of consumer electronics.

Apart from some fire-retardant plastics and old-style wood panelling, about 95 per cent of television set parts can be reused.

The recycling of unwanted televisions – indeed all electronic junk – has been given a massive push as the Government moves to full digital coverage by the end of next year.

In tandem with the Going Digital switchover, the Environment Ministry has teamed up with private recycling company RCN e-Cycle in the TV TakeBack scheme to create an integrated national network of public drop-off points and recycling plants.


By December next year, all viewers will need either Sky or TVNZ's Freeview to watch television.

It is not essential to buy a new set to receive a digital signal, but the Government is expecting that many viewers will take the opportunity to upgrade, and it wants to make sure the old cathode ray tube sets are not just thrown away.

RCN's recycling plant in Seaview, Petone, is where many of the 16,000 old televisions collected in the first phases of the TV Takeback scheme have been processed.

The warehouse looks like a postmodern art installation, with hundreds of extracted cathode ray tubes blanketing the floor.

About 44 containers, stuffed with 300 tonnes of old televisions, were collected in phase one of Going Digital before analogue signals were switched off in Hawke's Bay and the West Coast at the start of last month.

Environment Minister Amy Adams is delighted with the initial response.

"It shows that people are keen to play their part in caring for the environment by making sure their unwanted televisions are recycled."

The scheme is seen as a channel for boosting investment in domestic recycling while laying the groundwork for a more lasting solution to the ever-growing surge of electronic waste. TV TakeBack has also signed up councils and electronics retailers and manufacturers such as Noel Leeming, Harvey Norman, Samsung and The Warehouse.

"This is a great opportunity for the public to recycle their TVs at a subsidised cost and divert these hazardous items from landfills," RCN e-Cycle project manager Jon Thornhill said.

With the big box retailers' marketing clout and store presence behind the scheme, it is hoped the network of drop-off site options will expand, while raising awareness around environmentally friendly television recycling.

"We support any Government initiative to design and implement a framework that ensures all producers of electronic goods take responsibility for the recycling of e-waste at the product's end of life," Mr Thornhill said.



Television sets contain environmentally hazardous materials such as lead and mercury. They should not be dumped in landfills or into the environment.

They also contain materials that can be recycled, such as copper, and glass circuit boards containing gold and silver.

People should contact their local councils and specialist e-waste recyclers to find out about available recycling services.

There is a cost to recycling a television, ranging from about $10 to $25, which is subsidised by the scheme. Although many components can be recycled, the value of recovered material is less than the cost of transport and recycling.

All participating recyclers have the necessary consents under the Basel Convention to ensure overseas recyclers follow proper procedures when e-waste is exported so it does not end up dumped in developing countries.

Recyclers must follow Environment Ministry guidelines for collecting and recycling e-waste, and report on where all collected materials have gone.

Matt Stewart
Weather, science and environment reporter

The Dominion Post