Digital switchover will result in TV waste surge, claims ERP chief

5 Oct 2012

The European Recycling Platform's 'analogue to digital' art installation at the Electric Picnic festival in September

With the switch from analogue TV to digital TV edging closer, we talk to Martin Tobin, chief executive of the European Recycling Platform (ERP) in Ireland, about the rise in TV recycling that’s expected to happen as a result.

Ireland’s analogue TV service will be switched off on 24 October, and it’s anticipated that 200,000 TVs won’t be compatible with the digital switchover, so the ERP is encouraging people to think about recycling old or non-compliant TVs.

Despite the intense campaign to make people aware of the digital switchover, Tobin says many people tend to leave recycling their TVs until the last minute.

However, he says the ERP has seen a decent return rate on TVs in the past two years.

“In 2011, we received a return rate of over 300,000 TVs and this year we are expecting this figure to increase by at least another 100,000 TVs,” explains Tobin.

He says the ERP anticipates it will take a while for people to return TVs that are no longer compatible with the switch from analogue to digital. “We want to tell people about the options available to them in the event that they do decide to change their TV.”

Martin Tobin

Martin Tobin, chief executive, European Recycling Platform in Ireland

So what are the options, then?

“The obvious one is to bring your TV back to your local recycling centre,” he explains, adding that such centres are also extending their opening hours to make it easier for the public to recycle not just old TVs but also any electrical waste.

People can also bring their TV back to any retailer as they are obliged to take back old devices.

Free recycling events

As for the ERP itself, it also holds free recycling events around the country each weekend. “These events take place in more remote areas where people don’t have a civic amenity infrastructure or a big retail chain on their doorstep. The events are also for people who didn’t take the opportunity to recycle their TVs when they were buying new ones,” says Tobin.

And while there has been an uptake in people returning old TVs for recycling, he says there are still a lot of TVs out there that are not compatible.

“Long after the digital switchover we will still continue to see demand ramping up – maybe as far as into the middle of next year, so we are trying to accelerate that return rate as best we can and to encourage people to recycle. There are a lot of TVs that are going to be out there that won’t work,” says Tobin.

Materials that are recovered during recycling

Plastics, glass and copper are just some of the materials that can be recovered from TVs when they are recycled.

“Some of those materials have a value, while some of them have a cost of treatment. All of the TVs that are collected from the retailers, civic amenity sites and open days are taken to the nearest treatment facility,” he explains. “They are treated in strict accordance with the WEEE Directive. It’s about recovering the precious materials and the hazardous substances that these TVs contain and making sure they are treated properly.”

He says the materials that are removed from TVs during this phase can be re-used in industry. “TVs still have a very high recovery rate for the materials that are inside.”

However, Tobin warns that people need to be vigilant, as he says there have been incidences of “rogue operators” knocking on people’s doors and offering to take their old TVs.

“The last thing you want is for the valuable materials to be taken out of the TV and the rest just sent to landfill.”

As for electrical waste recycling in general, he says Ireland currently comes in third in the European rankings for its recycling rates.

“We want to highlight the opportunity of recycling all e-waste and not just TVs. We really have got to use the digital switchover as the trigger to get this message out there,” adds Tobin.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic