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If Santa Left New Electronic Toys, It's Easy To Recycle The Old Ones

Shelley Kofler
Shiela Overton, the waste diversion manager for Dallas, at the McCommas site for recycling electronics.

So now that you found that new cellphone or TV under the tree, what do you do with the old one?  If it’s still useable, you can donate it.  If not, think recycling. 

State laws in Texas make it easy.

Right before Christmas, it was tough finding a parking spot at a North Dallas electronics store as shoppers looked for the perfect e-gift.

“I’m trying to find a Galaxy Eight Tablet,” one harried shopper said.

“My daughter asked for something related to an iPhone, a printer,” another said.  

“My wife really wants this camera for Christmas so I thought I’d surprise her,” said Spencer Han of Dallas.

Techie-toys are such popular gifts at Han’s house, he has many old, retired ones that are just collecting dust.

“Like three computers, five cell phones I don’t know I can’t even keep count. They kind of just sit in the garage,” he said.

Han doesn’t want to just throw them in the garbage, and that’s a good thing.

Electronic waste like cathode ray tubes, printed circuit boards, and computer chips can take up valuable landfill space. They may also contaminate soil and ground water with lead, heavy metals and hydrocarbons.

That’s why the Texas legislature in 2007 passed the Texas Computer Recycling Program, which requires manufacturers selling in the state to collect and recycle their consumer equipment. A similar program does the same for TVs.

Dallas, like many other cities, provides drop-off sites for the junked waste. Manufacturers take it from there.

“We have a partnership with the TV manufacturers and they have a vendor who comes out and collects the materials at no cost to the city,” said Sheila Overton, the waste diversion manager for the city of Dallas.

“Its’ a producer responsibility law," she said. "The producers are required to pay for collection, transportation and recycling of covered devices using their own programs with no cost to the consumers."  

Overton says Dallas alone collected about 156 tons of electronic waste last year.

Big corrugated boxes at the McCommas landfill hold the remnants of what citizens have dropped off over just several days: old-style televisions with gigantic wooden cabinets; damaged flat screens; stereo speakers; a stereo tuner, and more.

“We (also) take monitors, cell phones, key boards, printers, copiers, home and office phones,” Overton said.

TVs, by far, are the biggest castoff.

“The TVs are disassembled and the glass tube is actually remanufactured into new CRT glass. And the TV manufacturers have the opportunity to buy that back, so it’s a full circle,” Overton said.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the TCEQ, oversees the recycling programs and websites that list hundreds of drop off locations in Texas.

Chris Blauser of Waco says he’s looking for an easy way to recycle his e-toys. He wants to get rid of them responsibly since he’s always accumulating more.

“I just have a bunch of old video game consoles," he said. "I have an old cellphone I have no idea what to do with so I keep it in a closet tucked away."

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.