So, throughout our time doing junk removal, we have charged recycling fees, or surcharges, for certain items. No one likes them. I don’t like them. So, I figured I’d go into why we charge them and why they are important. The basics of it, are that some sort of special handling is needed somewhere in the disposal of the item. In a lot of places in the world, and even in certain places in this country, it’s possible to just take the items and pitch them in a hole in the ground. But here in Massachusetts, our landfills are quickly reaching capacity, at which point they are closed, and our environmental laws are a little tougher, which amounts to cleaner water and air. For each item, there’s a different story. It’s probably pretty boring to most, but if you want to know a little more about the waste stream, read on!
Television Recycling & Disposal in Massachusetts
So, let’s start out with the dreaded television. This is one of the most common items that we pick up. There are of course multiple types of TV. The most common one we have picked up through our history is the Cathode ray tube. (CRT) The CRT is the old-style TV, that everyone has in their attic or basement. They’re heavy and bulky and no one uses them anymore. The process of recycling a CRT starts with breaking down the outside. Typically, the black plastic is removed and can be recycled, although it has no value. Then the circuit boards are taken out, and some wiring, which has a little bit of value. But the real reason for the surcharge is the leaded glass. The core of the TV is a glass tube that makes up probably 80% of the weight of that TV. The real challenge, because there’s no use for leaded glass currently, is to melt down the glass, and separate the lead, and the glass, both of which have some value. But the process is extremely energy-intensive and costs quite a bit of money to accomplish, hence the extra fee.
Newer TVs do not contain leaded glass, but they often have fluorescent bulbs in them, which is another challenge for recycling. They contain a lot of circuit boards though, and a much lesser volume of materials compared to the old TVs, so in a lot of ways, they are a leap forward environmentally over the old tv screens. Still have some technical challenges, but they are better.
Air Conditioner Recycling & Refrigerator Recycling
Second, and another common one is the Air conditioner or the refrigerator. Both contain refrigerant, which is damaging to the ozone and is a pollutant to boot. Many will call this “Freon” but freon is a brand name, so refrigerant is the proper term. This one is a little more of a problem because there are people who exist in the world who will just cut the refrigerant lines and harvest the copper and scrap it. This is illegal for one, and in actuality, I think the fines are $25,000 per occurrence, per item. So, if you are considering hiring someone who’s not charging a fee for these, be cautious to ask what is going to happen with the item. In our case, we put them aside and hire a certified technician to come out monthly to properly pump out the refrigerant. It’s the right thing to do.
Mattress Recycling in Massachusetts
The last common item with the list is Mattresses. Mattresses, do not contain hazardous materials like refrigerants or lead. Instead, they are a technical challenge. You see, when we bring items to the transfer station, they are typically chopped up by machinery. That machinery crushes, and grinds, and rips materials up, so that they can be sorted as different grades of material, that move to the proper area for recycling or landfilling. So, the problem is the spring steel in the mattress or box spring. That steel is flexible and durable, so when it hits one of these machines, it doesn’t shatter or break. It often binds up within the machine, getting wound up in the rollers or whatever you call the mechanism. Know what happens then? The whole line has to get shut down. There’s nothing more expensive than a piece of machinery that is shut down! So, because of this, they need to separate out the mattresses and bring them to a place that disassembles them by hand so that the components can be properly separated.
Tire Recycling & Disposal
Tires. The last surcharge is a less common one because, realistically, when you get your tires changed you tend to leave the old ones at the tire store. But for some car aficionados or do-it-yourselfers, you might have a set of tires, or maybe snow tires, in the basement or in your garage. Tires are a waste ban item from the landfills, and as with the other items, have a specialist disposal company that deals with them. We have a company pick them up, and transport them down to New Bedford, MA where they deal with the process of shredding the tires. Sometimes this is turned into that rubber mulch on playgrounds, and sometimes it is used as a backstop in firing ranges. But it needs specialized expensive equipment to get this done, and so there are only a few companies who will do it, which results in that recycling fee.
So, there you have it. Our whole list of recycling surcharges explained. We have spent ten years honing our waste stream to get the best pricing, with the most responsible recyclers, in order to keep our prices as low as we can. There are reasons we need to charge the fees, and no matter who you choose, keep in mind they should be paying these fees as well. If they for some reason can get away without charging the fee, you should ask yourself why that is. With a reputable company, and there are many out there, you don’t have to worry about getting a phone call from the police asking why your items were dumped on the side of a street!