Ever tried to recycle a television? I don’t mean actually breaking apart the pieces to use again, I mean just bringing it to a place that will responsibly dispose of an idiot box cadaver.
Good luck if you live in New York City. I recently recycled my obsolete, behemoth TV set. My first thought was to put out with the recycling, but my doorman said it had to go out with the trash. Well, I thought to myself, how will they know to recycle it if it goes out with the trash?
Oh, wait, they won’t.
That is because New York City requires rechargeable batteries to be recycled, but not entire televisions, computers or other electronics equipment, even though they contain heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury that can leak into landfills. If you are lucky, you may live near one of NYC’s bi-annual event sites to collect such refuse. I was too impatient to leave a cumbersome television lurking in my cramped living room for an undisclosed amount of time, so my search for a final resting spot continued.
The city will not come pick it up electronics, claiming that the task would be too expensive. But a bill under consideration right now in New York’s city council, would require all manufacturers to provide a way to send used electronics back. Those who do not comply would be fined.
The bill has been stalled for more than a year, but could be passed by summer 2008.
Many manufacturers have recycling programs, but even my old Apple computer could not be dropped off at my closest Genius Bar. It would have to be shipped off at the cost of $30 to me. But many stores will take back the same brand of electronics that they sell. Unfortunately for me, ProScan was dropped by RCA in the early years of this millennium.
But fortune had not completely abandoned me. I had an entire weekday morning off and a willing companion to drive me and my obese television to a recycling center run by Build It Green! and the Lower East Side Ecology Center.
Their Web site promised that my old friend would be recycled here in the U.S. and not sent overseas. A recent National Geographic article estimates that 70 percent of computers and 80 percent of televisions end up in landfills. And the ones that do get recycled often end up overseas, where oversight is lax and scavengers hunt through the toxic waste for scraps of metal to sell.
I am grateful I had the free time and good friend who could help me make sure I was one less person polluting the world with my used electronics. But what if I didn’t have an entire morning free to put a television out to pasture?
The good news is that many companies, such as Staples, Apple and Dell are trying to make it easier for people to recycle. EcoGeek even wrote about a company TechForward that will take back your electronics and pay you when you decide to get rid of them.
As more cities and states demand recycling of electronics, the options of how to recycle these items should become not only more plentiful, but more obvious. I hope by the time I decide I need to upgrade to a flat-panel TV, this city, and hopefully this country, will be a little friendlier to someone just trying to do the right thing.