Oregon’s electronic waste recycling program set a new collection record last year, but most of the tonnage came from old televisions that are getting harder to recycle.
The program collected more than 26 million pounds of e-waste, or nearly 7 pounds per Oregonian, according to Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Televisions made up 76 percent of that waste.
DEQ’s e-waste manager Loretta Pickerell says while computers can be recycled profitably, old televisions cost money to recycle because of the leaded glass cathode ray tubes inside. Many tubes are made with leaded glass that is considered hazardous waste and recyclers are struggling to find a market for them.
So far, Pickerell says, the e-waste recyclers registered with her agency report they have been able to unload their glass tubes – despite the fact that fewer companies around the world are using them to make new TVs.
“But it’s difficult and it’s always a worry,” she said. “It’s day to day. They’re watching markets. They’re having to pay a lot of attention to where the capacity is to manage the glass.”
Pickerell says new technologies that extract the lead from cathode ray tubes could make the remaining glass easier to recycle.