Crisis for electronics recycling as glass market collapses

Video: Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground

Ian Urbina reports at The New York Times on the negative side effects the tech industries shift to flat screen technology has had on the market for recycling old television and computer monitor glass:

In 2004, recyclers were paid more than $200 a ton to provide glass from these monitors for use in new cathode ray tubes. The same companies now have to pay more than $200 a ton to get anyone to take the glass off their hands.

A little over a decade ago, there were at least 12 plants in the United States and 13 more worldwide that were taking these old televisions and monitors and using the cathode ray tube glass to produce new tubes. But now, there are only two plants in India doing this work.

This shift in consumer demand has decimated the recycling industry for this material, which is now being illegally stockpiled in old warehouses, shipped to developing nations or thrown in landfills, potentially releasing lead into groundwater.

This problem is just going to get worse, since some people are still using the old technology. There will be more glass to add to the already growing piles:

The Times reports that:

Roughly 660 million pounds of the glass is being stored in warehouses across the country, and it will cost $85 million to $360 million to responsibly recycle it, according to a report released in December by TransparentPlanet, an organization focused on electronic waste research.

In other words, this is maybe a $500 million problem to fix (adding in some money for buy backs for old monitors and TVs still being stored in basements and attics), so Apple, which has $137 BILLION in cash, could clean up this problem many times over. Sure, Apple alone is not responsible for the waste of an entire industry, but perhaps they could join a coalition of tech companies and recycling groups to fund a cleanup campaign. They helped cause this mess, it would be good if they helped clean it up.

There's a lot more to this story, so read the rest.

Related Content on