Mexico / United States – Recently a new ‘Mexican take back’ program has been introduced by Retroworks de Mexico, an electronics scrap recycling company which is a ‘maquila’ of American Retroworks Inc. in Vermont, USA. The organisation, run by a women’s corporation in Mexico, is offering a kind of ‘needle exchange’€™ program for used CRTs. Working TVs from the USA are being sold to make TV recycling less expensive, and junk ones are accepted from Mexico – not just for free, but with a coupon for US$ 10 off of a ‘new’€™ TV.As analog televisions cascade into electronic scrap recycling companies, export for reuse is a tempting option. A single sale of a 1999 analog TV in Latin America can bring US$ 40 – enough to pay for proper recycling of two other ‘junk’ TVs. Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and Dominican Republic are a few countries with the same NTSC analog signal being phased out in the USA in 2009.
Fair Trade organizations like WR3A.org have tried to meet demand without shipping ‘toxics along for the ride’. However, some environmentalists criticise export of even working products, saying that while it may be affordable now, displacing CRTs to poor countries will eventually mean they need to be recycled there. States like California spend millions of taxpayer dollars ‘cancelling’ (breaking) working TVs and computers.
The Retroworks de Mexico program aims move the dialogue ahead. By taking in at least one old junk TV for each refurbished one sold in the community, RDM is solving the problem in real-time. The program creates jobs, promotes reuse, and protects the environment in places that cannot always afford it.
The resale of working TVs also brings down the cost of recycling them in the USA. American Retroworks Inc. hopes that the ‘exchange program’ will convince states like California to stop burning money.
50% of Retroworks de Mexico – and profits after payroll – are shared with members of the women’s corp., nicknamed ‘Las Chicas Bravas’ in Mexico. ‘Las Chicas’ have been profiled by Tucson Weekly Magazine and NPR Marketplace for bringing affordable electronics to the poor and pioneering electronic scrap collections in poor communities.
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