Want to recycle that old TV or a computer monitor at no cost? Good luck. More retailers, recyclers, and state and local agencies have begun charging for it.
Starting Sunday, Best Buy will require $25 per TV or monitor for recycling at any of its 1,400 stores, although disposal is still free with the purchase and delivery of a new TV. Best Buy joins Hennepin County and Carver County and many other government recycling agencies across the country that now charge nominal fees for disposal.
“We’ve seen people gravitating to Best Buy after some government agencies quit taking them for free,” said Laura Bishop, vice president of public affairs and sustainability at Richfield-based Best Buy. “With the recycling program growing 20 percent a year, costs increasing and commodity prices falling, it became difficult to manage without a fee-based program.”
Best Buy is required under state law to accept an amount of recycled e-waste equivalent to 80 percent of the weight it sells annually. Bishop said Best Buy has exceeded its requirements year over year since the law went into effect in 2007.
Best Buy now collects one-third of all electronic waste in Minnesota, she said. More than 1 billion pounds has been collected by Best Buy since the program’s inception in 2009.
Consumers are starting to see fees for several reasons. Commodity prices have declined by as much as 50 percent for copper, aluminum and steel. The glass in CRT monitors and TVs is heavy and difficult to recycle. “Most of the glass [in TVs and computer monitors] is leaded, so it can’t be remade into Coca-Cola bottles or pickle jars,” said Amanda LaGrange, CEO of Tech Dump in Golden Valley.
Adding to the problem is that the e-waste processors are having difficulty making a profit with lower commodity prices. Many plants have closed, including Materials Processing Corp. in Mendota Heights. “It’s a broken system,” said LaGrange. “Fewer downstream processors can take in the materials to be recycled because the economics have changed.”
It costs about $20 to $30 to recycle a television set. Some Minneapolis residents who put TVs by their trash for recycling pickup may recall looters bashing TV sets for the metal inside. That’s changed with the diminished value of parts, but many consumers don’t realize it.
“Hennepin County incurs an annual cost of $700,000 to recover electronics,” said Paul Kroening, recycling program manager for Hennepin County. “We charge $10 to take in a TV, but it’s just to cover our costs. We’re not making any money.”
Some consumers still believe that city or county governments should pay them for taking their e-waste. “Consumers have an unrealistic value with any recyclable commodities,” Kroening said.
Charities used to be a reliable source to unload a working console TV, but that source has dried up as well.
Salvation Army, known for less-stringent acceptance guidelines, now refuses all console TVs. “We only take flat screen TVs in working order,” said Annette Bauer, community relations director for the Salvation Army Northern Division in Roseville.
Can there really be that many homes left with old console TVs? “We don’t expect recycling of the old CRTs to wane for another 10 years,” Bishop said.