E-Waste Scam?

In California, when electronics are purchased a e-waste fee (usually about $10) is add to help the disposal of potential harmful electronics due to mercury, etc.

From the California Department of Toxic Substance Control:

“Many types of electronic products used in the workplace and homes contain hazardous substances like lead and mercury. When these products reach the end of their useful lives or become obsolete, some are considered hazardous waste. In general, hazardous waste may not be discarded in the regular trash. Instead, it must be sent to a facility that has a permit for treatment (including recycling), storage, or disposal…”( http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/EWaste/ )
A few months ago, I called the city to pick up my old CRT tv. I expected a truck to come by and place the tv in back to be taken apart for disposal. Instead, an old fashion garbage truck pulls up (the one where trash is place in the rear as opposed to one with the mechanical arm and rear of the cab disposal) and the driver tosses my TV in back and it’s crushed. I saw this as I was leaving for the stroe and just stood there. Exactly how much safer was this “disposal” safer than me just tossing it in the regular trash? For all the driver knew, my TV could have been from the 1950s and had asbestos in it. Any mercury or other possbile dangerous chemicals in it are now in the air. Is this how e-waste disposal done in most states?

Note that burying asbestos (which never really caught on big-time for TV sets) in a landfill is not particularly hazardous.

Other than that, I got nothin’.

There are a number of issues with ewaste recycling, and what you saw was just the tiniest part. Much of the “recycling” isn’t even done here in the States. Its shipped overseas where folks in poor areas burn the waste to extract the metals from it so that can be recycled. The plastics and other components go off in a toxic cloud, poisoning the air, water, and soil.

While the US has rules in place which are supposed to prevent such things from happening to an extent, there’s been some news stories of late which indicate that they’ve not been enforced all that much.

It’s possible that what you saw was a dedicated e-waste collection vehicle, and the old set was going to be properly disposed of. Why not call city hall and ask them about this?

Yeah, the biggest problem with e-waste is that it is being shipped overseas, mostly to Africa and China. There people use various extremely dangerous solvents and good old fashioned burning to extract the trace amounts of valuable chemicals (there is, for example, a tiny bit of gold in most electronic equipment.) This is bad for the environment and even worse for the workers handling these dangerous chemicals.

So even if all this disposal does is keep your stuff out of the hands of these guys, that is still a net good.

There shouldn’t be much in the way of mercury in used electronics, or other materials that can easily escape into the air. Most of the nasty stuff is released when heated, and as others have noted, there has been quite a bit of publicity about shipping e-waste out of the country and letting it get handled by people with no personal protection and no incentive to keep the nasties out of the general environment. US facilities tend to be fairly well regulated to keep the dusts and vapors from getting outside those facilities, so if your ex-TV went to a US facility, there probably isn’t a lot of environmental damage associated with it, and the fee most likely did go toward the costs of running the facility.

California tends to be pretty good about watching stuff like that, so my guess is that it’s not a scam. I know here (North Carolina) there are local companies that do a good job of appropriately disposing of e-waste. As far as I know, there’s no disposal fee, but I haven’t purchased any electronics for a few years.