Madison County leads state e-waste recycling movement

Apr 23, 2014

There’s more urgency now than ever for New York state residents to dispose of certain electronic equipment. That’s why e-waste was emphasized in one central New York community on Earth Day this year.

DPW workers attend a Madison County e-waste collection event in Hamilton on Earth Day.
Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Starting in 2015, you won’t be able to dump old TVs or computer monitors in any New York state landfill. Madison County has a head start, with a ban in place for several years now, and has been shipping these TVs to a Rochester-area recycler. But Madison County Landfill Director James Zecca says they’ll still feel an impact.

"Come January 1 when New York state bans TVs and monitors from going into any landfill in New York state, there is going to be a huge glut of this material," Zecca said. "And there may not be places for it to go where it can be properly recycled, and we’re worried about that."

That’s one reason the county is pushing e-waste collection this spring, and is offering several collection days. Zecca says everyone in the state should start finding E-Waste disposal sites in their own communities before crunch time later this year.

The big issue with these old TVs and monitors is that their screens are made of CRT glass, which contains dangerously high lead levels.  

“What remains in the TVs and monitors, which is a real difficult item and a toxic item, is CRT glass, which is leaded glass," Zecca said. "It’s a really difficult item to recycle right now. So as the markets are somewhat good at this point, we are making a strong effort to get this stuff out of the waste stream.”

And at this point there are no U.S. markets for the material.
"Right now these units are going to Europe to be recycled, which is a shame," Zecca said. "We should be taking care of our own problems in our own country. And right now in New York state, there is no one handling CRT glass.”  

Experts predict that between now and 2022, an estimated 6.2 million tons of cathode ray tube displays will end up in the U.S. scrap stream.