Paradise Trashed: Collecting copper can be costly to environment - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Paradise Trashed: Collecting copper can be costly to environment

T.V.s & computers dumped in Kailua T.V.s & computers dumped in Kailua
Workers at Refrigerant Recycling Workers at Refrigerant Recycling
Allen Evans Allen Evans
Freon from refrigerators, if not salvaged properly, can deplete the ozone layer Freon from refrigerators, if not salvaged properly, can deplete the ozone layer
Copper salvaged for recycling Copper salvaged for recycling

By Tim Sakahara - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - People will go to great lengths to try to get their hands on a few dollars worth of copper, but they could be costing themselves and the environment much more.

There's a spot at the entrance of Kailua that has become a dumping ground for old TV's. The guys that hang out at the park nearby there say at one point there was a pile of 50 television sets and it's all just steps away from the main road.  Dumpers will take off the small amount of copper from the back of TV's and trash the rest.

People can place their TV's curbside for the scheduled bulky waste pickup but it goes to the landfill.  If consumers would rather recycle they can take it to stores like Best Buy which ships them off to California.  People pay $10 for the service but they do get it back in a store gift card.

As for refrigerators many come to Refrigerant Recycling in Campbell Industrial Park.  The company takes the old appliances you drop off with the city or back at stores like Sears.  The workers safely collect the Freon then recycle and resell it.

"First and foremost the refrigerant is an ozone depleting substance so when it goes out into the air it destroys the ozone," said Allen Evans, Refrigerant Recycling.

There is a small amount of copper worth about a dollar on the back of refrigerators, but if someone tried to scrap it themselves it could cost them more than $37,000 in fines for polluting the atmosphere.

"So if you see that guy driving up the street with a pickup truck cutting up those appliances on the side of the road, one it's illegal and two you could actually turn him in and get a reward of up to $10,000," said Evans.

Refrigerant Recycling will also properly drain the oil out of the fridge compressors.  It's a step that adds up to about eight drums of oil a month.

They also cut up air conditioners to recycle the copper.  In all they'll recycle between 400 to 500 appliances a day.  It's a good amount but it could be better if not for illegal dumpers.

"It's pretty sad to see what people actually do to make a couple of bucks," said Evans.

For more information about recycling televisions and ewaste click here.

You can also find more about the rules about refrigerant recycling by clicking here.  

To see Part 1 of our series Paradise Trashed click here.  

Part 2 of Paradise Trashed can be found by clicking here

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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