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Sunday 25 February 2018

800,000 old TVs are recycled as viewers switch to digital

Electronic waste
Electronic waste

Fiona Ellis

ALMOST 800,000 TVs have been recycled since the Saorview switchover as people dump their old tube televisions for sleek flatscreens.

WEEE Ireland, which oversees the treatment and recycling of electrical waste, electronic equipment and batteries, has reported a big increase in the number of TVs recycled in the past two years.

More than 400,000 televisions were recycled last year, and 350,000 have been recycled so far this year with the figure still rising.

The switchover from terrestrial television to RTE's digital Saorview service in March 2011 acted as a catalyst for tens of thousands of households to jettison their old television boxes in favour of modern designs.

Collecting the old sets was part of the service for WEEE Ireland which held almost 300 public collection days across the country in 2013, picking up more than 1,750 tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment. The not-for-profit organisation almost doubled its yearly recycling target of 4kg per person, reaching 7.65kg.

The most recycled item this year was fluorescent tubes with more than two million diverted from landfills. But while the number of TVs being recycled has soared, the number of larger appliances like fridges and freezers being recycled has dropped.

In 2009, 4,257 tonnes of old fridges and freezers were recycled -- but this dropped to just 3,709 tonnes last year.

In three years the amount of large items such as dishwashers and tumble dryers being recycled by WEEE fell from 14,382 tonnes to 10,935 tonnes.

The amount of computer monitors being recycled also fell, from 938 tonnes to just 700 -- perhaps as people rely more on laptops and tablets.

"There certainly aren't the same level of sales of new appliances, and there isn't the same new house builds so there isn't the same amount of fridges, freezers and dishwashers being bought," said Elizabeth O'Reilly, compliance manager with WEEE Ireland.

However, she also attributed some of the fall in recycling rates to rogue collectors.

WEEE items not being recycled and disposed of properly cause huge environmental problems, she said.

"The appliances that we have in our homes have a certain amount of metal in them and it's that metal that is attractive to rogue collectors.

"They don't see the mercury or the lead glass that is in most CRT televisions, they wouldn't be worried about the high levels of cadmium in some tools or batteries.

"If we dump them on a hillside the materials in them can break down over time. Fluorescent tubes would contain mercury and there could be vapour, if they were smashed or disposed of incorrectly."

This Christmas WEEE Ireland, with the help of Bosco, is urging children to recycle batteries in aid of Laura Lynn, Ireland's children's hospice -- and to look out for the blue WEEE Ireland battery box in retail outlets across the country.

Irish Independent

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