Sunday, 11 March 2012

One's man's muck is another man's brass

(Photo: E.S./
CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR Suddenly, the screen goes black, just as the film is reaching its climax. It's not THE END of a rubbish film, it's your telly's turned to rubbish. What now? Aside from having to buy a new one, what do you do with the old one? You take it to your nearest Punto Limpio recycling centre (ask for yours at the Ayuntamiento), of course. But what happens to it there? Technically, your old friend has become an RAEE (an acronym for Residuo de Aparatos Eléctricos y Electrónicos, or Electric and Electronic Waste Product). It is at the very end of its useful life - but is it?>>>

At the end of the life it was designed for, maybe. But its innards contain lots of goodies that can be recycled and/or sold on, some for good money.

For instance, you get metals such as silicon from microchips, or copper, aluminium and other well paid stuff. Even the outer plastic can be melted down and turned into a whole new set (It'd be ironic if it turned up at the house again, wouldn't it? You'd never find out, though.)

In other words, using that well worn cliché: One's man's muck is another man's brass. (Can anyone tell me why I always seem to hear that one in a Yorkshire accent?)

Electric and electronic 'leftovers' are a gold mine for the processing industry, as well as playing a large part in protecting the environment. A fridge that is not properly broken down can let out all the gas in its compressor in just a few seconds. That gas is the equivalent of what a car releases in a whole year.

The question is: Are the inhabitants of the Campo de Gibraltar aware of this? It isn't hard to see fridges, washing machines or television sets thrown next to containers at the side of the road, or even into a field or a river. This is either laziness or ignorance.

Using a Punto Limpio
Our own experience at our local Punto Limpio has been excellent. Not only is the place kept clean but there is plenty of information about what to put where. And then there's the person in charge, who has always been very helpful. (His predecessor confessed one day that the only people who use it are the foreigners...) Also, if you can't take the thing to a Punto Limpio for some reason, you can call your local Town Hall and they will arrange to pick it up. In some cases there might be a small charge for this.

So, the old telly has been dumped at the Punto Limpio, which is run by Arcgisa. Much of what is dumped there is subcontracted to outside processors, but let's concentrate on our TV set.

It will go to a subcontractor called Recilec, which was created with the backing of the Junta and whose plant is in the province of Sevilla, which is where the photo above was taken.

Being aware of the law
Yet not all this type of rubbish comes to Recilec via Arcgisa and a Punto Limpio: the law states that when you buy white goods from a dealer, they are obliged to remove the old one. If it's a smaller item, you can take the old one to the shop and they must deal with it. The small cost of this obligatory service is included in the price. Some shops make a point of letting you know about it but many do not.

In some cases, these items end up at an old fashioned junk yard, where the breaking down process may not be up to standards. This is one of the problems that must be resolved for the benefit of the environment.

Some figures
The Campo de Gibraltar recycled 169.30 tons of electric and electronic goods via its Puntos Limpios last year. This is 0.64 kilos per inhabitant, which compared to 2010 (2.1 kilos) is extremely low. However, it is an improvement over 2009, when only 150.5 tons was processed (that's only 0.57 kilos per head).

The figures per municipality show that Algeciras processed 64.3 tons; San Roque 31 and Tarifa, 26.9. Another 24.4 was collected in Castellar and Jimena, who share a Punto Limpio, while Los Barrios recycled correctly 18.6 tons and La Línea only 3.9.

January, June and September showed the highest usage figures, and July the more 'apathetic'.
Still, not all residents recycle their RAEE equally. This comes from working out the ratio of kilos per inhabitant. Thus, Jimena and Castellar stand proudly at the head of the list with 1.79 kilos per head, and La Línea should be ashamed of itself with is meagre 0.061 (that's 610 grammes!). The people of Tarifa contributed 1.51 kilos; those of San Roque, 1; Los Barrios 0.82 and Algeciras only 0.55.

These figures are way too low. We need to do better, but the process is long and difficult, particularly when so much civic pride is so sadly lacking.

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