Unwanted TVs get a reprieve from dump

OLD-STYLE TUBES: Ecodrop's Richard Simpson with waste monitors that will be stripped down.
OLD-STYLE TUBES: Ecodrop's Richard Simpson with waste monitors that will be stripped down.

Cantabrians are abandoning their outdated televisions but sending them to landfill is not the answer.

Until recently, old cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions had been left to seep poison into the surrounding soil and groundwater. Now, they are being recyled.

Christchurch man Adrian van der Krogt had been looking for a way to dispose of his old television, which was damaged during the February 2011 earthquake, when he heard local firm Ecodrop now accepted old electronics, including television and computer screens.

In the first week of this month, Christchurch Ecodrop estimated 650 old televisions were dropped off.

Christchurch Ecodrop business development manager Richard Simpson said not just CRT televisions were being dumped; people were getting rid of older flatscreen models that did not have digital capability.

"Lots of people want to upgrade their televisions with insurance payouts, and the price of televisions are going down literally daily," he said.

"We average about 86 televisions a day from all three of our Christchurch sites."

Ecodrop general manager Robert Gerrie said the old sets used to be resold for $15 to $20 if they worked.

"But now no-one is buying them," he said. "They are all buying flatscreens since it's about $500 or $600 for a new flatscreen TV.

"Sale of CRT televisions has dropped by 80 per cent."

Ecodrop started collecting the old monitors for recycling this month. Before then the screens were taken to landfill, where they may have leaked chemicals and toxins into the surrounding soil.

Television and computer monitors contain a vast array of chemicals, including arsenic, barium, beryllium, brominated flame retardants, cadmium, lead, mercury, and nickel.

Most of these chemicals could have adverse effects on human health, including brain damage, infertility, and death.

"Now it's e-scrap and it can be recycled," Simpson said.

Ecodrop does not strip down the monitors.

Instead, it collects them and send them to other recyclers like RCN e-Cycle in Heathcote, where the monitors are taken apart.

"We dismantle some parts, like the plastic case, the front lead-coated glass, the unleaded glass, and the CRT tubes, and sort them out," RCN e-Waste general manager Jon Thornhill said.

Plant manager Annie Ututaonga said the business had grown hugely since she started working there in June last year.

"We try to reduce it so only 10 per cent is rubbish, and 90 per cent is recycled," Ututaonga said.

Although metal is recycled in a nearby plant in Bromley, most of the dismantled components are shipped overseas.

"The unleaded glass goes to Australia for their roadworks," she said.

The company was negotiating for the Christchurch plant to move to a new site so they could have more space, she said.

Thornhill said the amount of electronic waste, including computers, televisions, and other household electronics, being delivered to RCN's recycling plants was increasing by 50 per cent each quarter.

To find out what items can be recycled and where, go to targetsustainability.co.nz.

The Press