Auckland centre to recycle old TVs

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 05:00 28/09/2012
DANIEL GALVIN/Fairfax NZ

The Abilities Group, providing employment for people with disabilities, officially launched the first approved technology that allows for the safe recycling of old televisions.

tv sets
NOT NEEDED: A small Auckland company is leading the way in recycling old television sets.

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As Kiwi households ditch their bulky TV sets and transition to digital, the first approved technology for recycling the old tubes has been fired up in Auckland.

The Abilities Group, which provides employment for people with disabilities, officially launched the equipment this afternoon at its Glenfield processing and recycling plant.

The first of the analogue broadcasting networks will be permanently switched off this weekend, and the country will be fully digital by the end of next year.

Horizon Research suggests that about 30 per cent of people will replace their old televisions with digital ones throughout the transition.

The old-fashioned cathode ray tubes (CRTs) can now be safely harvested for their component parts, hopefully sparing North Island landfills from an avalanche of discarded TV sets.

The Hot Band Glass Separator technology was supplied to Abilities by Sweden's MRT Systems, and is approved by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Abilities managing director Peter Fraher said the plant could process between 40,000 and 80,000 TVs each year, which would fill 40-80 shipping containers if sent offshore.

Up until now, old TVs have either been shipped overseas or dumped, despite the toxic lead content and phosphorus powder in the CRTs.

"Instead we will divert 700 tonnes of glass from landfill, recycle 70 per cent of it locally and safely process lead from the CRTs," Fraher said.

Inside the bustling Glenfield warehouse, massive televisions are piled along the wall by the assembly line.

Workers strip off the casing, circuit boards and other components, release the vacuum on the CRT and send it through to the separator.

With an 80 meter coil, the hot band can cleanly split away the leaded glass from tubes of any size.

The lead content is sent to Europe for processing, but recovery of the other materials including gold, copper and plastic are not worth the expense.

Fraher said Kiwis have grown used to recycling electronics for free, and would probably dump them in the inorganic collections rather than pay a fee.

He suggested a levy of roughly $20 could be placed on imported televisions and put towards recycling costs.

The Waste Minimisation Fund helped pay for the installation of the hot band technology, and Fraher thanked the government for its confidence in disability enterprises.

Abilities was established in 1959 to employ people with disabilities. About 70 per cent of the incorporated society's staff have a disability of some kind.

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- Auckland Now

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