How To Be a Heavy Metal Rock Star: eWaste and You

featured-brave-new-worldGot your attention, didn’t I? Well, Mr. Hiding-pictures-of-the-high school-mullet and Ms. Fingerless-lace-gloves-still-in-the-bottom-of-the-drawer, I’m not talking about your penchant for swinging your hair in tempo to Metallica. Rather, this month is a little education on the severity of e-waste (including heavy metals) and how we must address this issue as an industry.

Let’s chat first about the current situation, which always serves as a little awakening to why it matters that we do something about our electronics and how to manage the heavy metals, which we are generating on a huge scale.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2012 report on Municipal Solid Waste, we disposed of over five billion pounds of Consumer Electronics per year (taking into account the 1 billion being recycled). But what might be most concerning is that this is only CE equipment — not professional AV equipment! EPA numbers include only a few components we work with, such as CD and DVD players. There is zero mention of projectors, video switchers, audio amplifiers, microphones and the like. These materials are totally unaccounted for or considered in any way. Since a bulk of the 29 percent of CE being recycled are printers/monitors/computers, figuring out how to deal with audiovisual equipment is probably the biggest issue in preventing hazardous waste.

Look, I’ll be totally honest here. This month’s column came up because with a new house came the inheritance of an obsolete control system. It dawned on me that I, the so-called Green AV Goddess, had no idea how to recycle the system components. And this control system manages millions of homes and businesses across the country. I knew the local Goodwill would take our audio rack and DVD player, but how was I going to manage this situation? While they supply plenty of information on “green” and how their products help, there was no mention on the site anywhere about a take-back or recycling program. Talk about a wake up call for me!

So what do we do? Here are a few ideas for manufacturers, dealers and consultants to start: If you are looking for more of a DIY approach to developing an in-house recycling and waste management solution, you might start with the U.S. EPA’s WasteWise program. They offer a wealth of information, planning guides and access to their own experts to help you implement the program.

You could also follow the lead of AVI-SPL, which has committed to the recycling of audiovisual products. The company has a very clear statement on its website about the process it follows and what it offers. Turning to a partner like AVI-SPL’s, MPC, may be a strategic path to implementing a program. Or, follow the lead of manfucturer QSC Audio and establish a very clear Green Policy and take-back program. (You can also listen to an awesome podcast I did with their green team leader.)

Finally, you might also find a donation outlet for some products such as projectors and other useful products. One such organization is the National Cristina Foundation.

One tool that could ultimately come in handy is the AV-iQ database of products and services. Unfortunately, as of now there really are only two manufacturers I could find that offered information in the filters for take-back programs. Plus it would be great if there were searchable fields that corresponded to Green AV applications.

So, for now, I’ll see if I can offload some of these electronics to the local recycler or Goodwill. I’ll continue to hope for the day where I just look at the back of the product and read off a phone number for the recycling instructions. Ahhhh, I guess an AVGirl can always dream.