June 24, 2011
Showing me around Corona Visions recycling off I-35 near BAMC, Vandell Norwood said his crew carefully takes apart every piece of every computer monitor, hard drive, mouse, telephone, and television they receive for separate recycling.
“The first place I had was only 2,000 square feet. This is over 30,000 square feet,” Norwood said.
It’s not a big money maker, but Norwood said the need for electronics recycling grows every time a new technology is introduced.
“The numbers are staggering about how much we throw away. And then now, spring is coming. There are going to be a lot of people buying new things and getting rid of old things,” he said.
Texas has a particular problem in recycling consumer electronics. A Texas Campaign for the Environment report shows since 2009, only four companies — Dell, Samsung, Sony, and San Antonio’s Altex — recycle 92% of the state’s computer waste for 78 other companies in Texas.
San Antonio television retailer Bjorn Dybdahl said it is difficult to get manufacturers to take back the televisions from the consumers who bought them.
“This is important. A lot of people, or some of the companies that purport to be a recycler, just go dump it somewhere, or they send it overseas. This is a big problem,” he said.
In fact, the Electronics TakeBack Coalition cites Texas as the bad example of what manufacturing companies will do — if the law does not force them to do the right thing.
“Ultimately, ultimately, it still comes down to who’s going to pay for all of this because this is not an inexpensive thing to do. When you take a large-screen TV that’s 10 years old or whatever, there’s a real cost there, and it can be anywhere from 60-70-80 bucks,” Dybdahl said.
“The public is looking for ways to do this,” said Senator Kirk Watson who authored the bill. “The public wants ways to recycle these TVs. More and more people are wanting this as a service.”
Although a computer recycling law was passed in the last legislative session, Watson’s TV recycling bill was vetoed. This time, Watson has pulled in more business owners and manufacturers to give a TV recycling bill a better chance. The bill requires manufacturers to submit a collection and recycling plan to TCEQ.
“The manufacturers get to submit a collection plan that works best for them,” Watson said, “but they have to provide at least 200 unique opportunities for Texas consumers. And, they have to demonstrate that those are working through a public education program, so that we’ll know how it is we can go about recycling our TVs.”
Manufacturers also must demonstrate that collections are available in rural areas. After it was passed out of Senate Committee last week, Senate Bill 329 is headed to the floor for a full vote. Watson is hopeful that giving manufacturers the flexibility to create their own collection programs will convince the governor to sign the TV recycling bill.
Recycling expert Norwood has confidence that most people want to do the right thing and recycle properly, but he says the education component of the bill will be key to the success of TV recycling.
“There are a lot of people out there that do recycle,” Norwood said. “It’s a matter of getting the word out to let people know that there are dangerous materials in TVs. And they pay to have the trash hauled off. Why not pay to get it recycled?”