Saturday, May 09, 2009

Dane County holds its first free recycling drop off for obsolete and toxic household electronics

Nightmare Vision of the Detritus of Our Consumer Society
What if they had a big, free recycling drop off for all those old computers, analog TVs and other household electronics and everybody came? You'd have a big traffic jam -- and also keep an estimated 250 tons of toxic trash (some of it ours) out of the Dane County Landfill. Seeing it all piled up in the parking lot of the Alliant Center Saturday was a striking reminder of how much electronic trash our consumer economy generates.

Dane County (Free) TV and Electronics Recycling Drop OffSame thing when we cleaned the accumulated gear out of the house the day before and loaded up the Subaru wagon we borrowed from M, who also helped load. We set out with our car full of tributes to the forgotten glories of analog television and VHS video Saturday morning. By approaching the Alliant Center from Olin Ave. rather than the Beltline, we avoided the massive traffic tangle caused by thousands of Dane County residents coming to unload their stuff without having to pay the usual $10 recycling fee for TVs and computers. We were in a long line of cars that took about a half hour to snake slowly through the back roads of the Alliant Center. But when it came time for unloading, a couple of volunteers emptied the entire car that took so much time and effort to load in less than two minutes, and we were on our way.

Dane County (Free) TV and Electronics Recycling Drop OffIt was quite an operation. Not perfect, but pretty smooth for what they were trying to do (traffic control could have been better organized, but they didn't expect the turnout they got). You'll find more pictures here of the assembly-line operation in which the two lines of incoming cars split into multiple unloading lanes, in which volunteers quickly emptied the cars and trucks onto the pavement of the parking lot, where the junk was palletized and loaded into semis for shipment to the Janesville reprocessing plant.

Fees for recycling individual TVs and computers just encourage people to pile them up in their basements and garages and hope they go away -- and for the less scrupulous to dump them in the countryside. An event like this is like a overdue library book amnesty. It brings the contraband out of hiding. Be nice if we could hold some more of these events on a regular basis (perhaps in a more decentralized fashion) until people get rid of the backlog in their homes.

Once we get the basements cleaned out, we shouldn't have to do this anymore. It would make more sense to include a modest fee in the purchase price and then allow people to return junk electronics to stores at no additional charge.


vfm4 said...

"to include a modest fee in the purchase price"
we have that already, not sure if it's in all of Europe, but at least in the Netherlands... :-)

Cybergabi said...

Here in the Netherlands they require you to pay a recycling fee for electronics when you buy them. It costs between €1 and 20, depending on size and amount of hazardous material used in the device - my stove e.g. was €5, my fridge €17.

Then you can just return them to a public dump when they're done and don't have to pay again.

I think it's a clever system - polluter pays principle.

Dr Bud "Rabbit Ears" Diablo said...

Recalling your repeated caterwauling laments about the Government's untimely delivery of analog-to-digital TV converters, a suspicion flickered in my mind when I read this post. I view your subsequent disappearance as full confirmation.

MadGuy, I fear that you're rummaging through that mound of appliances, hoping to find a digital converter box among those broken Electrolux radios and 8-track players. Hopefully, your absence is due to the continuing quest rather than to some mishap. I pray you're not pinned beneath a half-ton console television.

You know, sometimes it's better to just pony up, MadGuy. I find that when I scrounge to save a few bucks, the loss of time and self-esteem is simply not worth it. Better yet, as a movie--excuse me, "film"--buff, you might consider springing for an HDTV to enhance your viewing enjoyment.

Hoping to receive a signal soon,

Dr D

Madison Guy said...

Dr. Rabbit Ears, sorry to disappoint you, but we've been enjoying 37" of HD flat panel goodness since the switchover. Nice picture -- except when the trees or the rain between us and the stations cause dropouts. Not enough of a sports fan to spring for cable and ensure a steady picture. I've heard that in June, after the rest of the nation switches to HD and we're all-digital, they'll start broadcasting a stronger signal, but I don't know if that's true. Hope so.

Dr Bud "Charter Bundle" Diablo said...

MadGuy, there's something touching about the image of you, Campari in one hand and remote in the other, marveling at the clarity of HD when you don't have it. I feel cruel popping your bubble, but you don't want devoted readers following you into error.

Although your over-the-air signal is digital, it is not Hi-Def. It's true that the stations announce that programming is "brought to you in high-definition," but that doesn't mean you're receiving it. Remember how they used to intone that "the following program is brought to you in living color," but your black-and-white Philco remained achromatic? It's like that.

You need cable or a dish, MadGuy, and not just do you can follow Brett Favre's Vikings career in painful detail. You can watch the History Channel and Discover and all those other PBSey educational programming in high-def. For an even more riveting experience, you can do as I did: Hook up a Blu-Ray player and watch--and hear--"Planet Earth" in pristine clarity, with the original Attenborough narration instead of Dolly Parton, or whoever it was that dubbed it for US TV. It feels like a scholarly activity when it's presented with a British accent.

Cable doesn't cost that much. While it's true that Charter is in bankruptcy and offers dubious customer service, it doesn't require a contract. Quit smoking and use the proceeds to connect up to cable. Happy viewing!

Madison Guy said...

Dr. Bud, what are you smoking? Your Charter bundle seems to have messed with your understanding of broadcast physics. Even Mighty Charter can't increase the resolution of an HDTV broadcast signal -- it's 720p, period. If you're getting better than that it's some kind of extrapolation or other smoke and mirrors. Blu-Ray does offer more resolution (1020i), but I'm just fine with regular DVDs and their quality.

Dr Bud Diablo, Upconverter said...

The Blu-Ray player on my Playstation 3 outputs 1080p. I cannot abide interlacing.

andbehold said...

Switzerland has the same system as the Netherlands, it seems. A recycling fee is included in the price and then you just take it back to any electronics shop. Regardless of where you bought it.
That's for private households. If a company gets rid of 4 tons of electro-trash at once, like my faculty did last year, we had to organize for some recycling company to come and pick it up, and that costs quite something.

I enjoy your photos and musings, btw.

Dr Bud "Live at Five" Diablo said...

Madison Guy, I have grand news! This thread got some action, demonstrating that "the powers that be" not only follow your blog but are responsive to it. Just DAYS after this thread appeared, WKOW, the local ABC affiliate, increased its signal output from 400 watts to 800 watts.

This means no more "snow," tiling, "ghost" images, freezing, or other glitches to disrupt viewing of your favorite ABC programming. I'll be curious to see if this development inspires WKOW's competitors to follow suit.

Way to go! You've performed a service not only for yourself but for the estimated other 48 people in WKOW's viewing area who receive its signal via "outboard" attachments.