Remember those clunky monitors that used to be so cool? Come on, don’t be embarrassed to admit that you once thought you were the bees’ knees with your massive, 5,000 pound computer. Now we’ve got flat screens and touch screens. One of these days there won’t be screens at all. Ever wonder what happened to your beastly machine of a computer or TV? Cathode ray tubes, that’s what. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
Once upon a time, there was a man who saw a problem that didn’t have an easy solution. That man is Juan Carlos Villatoro, founder of eCycle Security. The aim of eCycle is pretty big. Even bigger than your old monitors. What Mr. Villatoro wants to do is eliminate the harmful waste that seeps from improperly discarded cathode ray tubes (CRTs). When Morgan and I visited eCycle, we had no idea what CRTs were. Now, we know exactly how harmful they are, and we know that Juan is the guy who is going to fix this problem. In fact, he already has.
Just to give you some mind-boggling statistics, there are about 6.9 million tons of CRTs just laying around the world, waiting to be disposed of. Most of them are going to be eventually collected; however, as there is no way to make them magically disappear, 85% of the CRTs are going to wind up in landfills or in illegal cargo shipments. On top of this, there are already 330k tons of different CRTs that are already hanging out somewhere, leaking toxic lead into the ground and water. The thing is, all of these CRT devices have lead in them, and there isn’t an easy way to separate the lead from the rest of the device. That means that the entire device is discarded somewhere with the harmful lead still intact. Not so good.
Enter Juan, who is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. He’s initially from New York, but, lucky for us, now he’s hooked on the Jacksonville air. “I couldn’t leave,” Juan said when I asked if he ever would. As a graduate of UNF, he’s infinitely grateful to Jacksonville and his education. While attending UNF, he led the CEL (Connect. Educate. Lead.) Project, which succeeded in creating a self-sustaining computer lab. CEL also created organic fertilizer production in rural areas of the Dominican Republic. His position in the CEL Project is what launched his current efforts and success with the proper recycling of CRTs.
So far, there hasn’t been an effective way to recycle old CRTs—not that people haven’t been trying. The enormity of the task is what initially intrigued Juan. “I wanted to go after the biggest challenge.” he said in his warehouse office. “The problem with the CRTs is that they’re still here. People don’t know that.” Only a handful of people know that you are supposed to recycle CRTs, since not everyone realizes how harmful they can be. But Juan is hopeful that people will know now.
Finding a way to properly recycle CRTs presented Juan with plenty of obstacles. Separating the lead from the rest of the monitor is complex and requires specific instruments. The things that keep Juan going are the people in his life, particularly Jenn, who handles his press and media, and who also drives around Jacksonville carrying a vintage Macintosh computer. If you see a woman posing with a computer that has eyeballs, that’ll be her. Another thing that helps Juan to stay hopeful is the idea that he’s helping to solve a national problem. “I think it sounds sexy,” he said, smiling. Solving a national problem? We also think that’s pretty sweet. And guess what? His process is approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
With Juan, we not only have an answer to a world-wide problem; we’ve also got an extremely loyal Jacksonvillian. “My promise is that I’m going to get this done, and I want Jacksonville to be the first,” Juan said, adding that his loyalty keeps him here. “This is a way to say ‘thank you’ to Jacksonville and UNF, who got me started with this.” Now it’s our turn to say thanks to Juan. We can do that by exploring eCycle Security’s website, where you can learn all the technicals about CRTs and their harmful effects. And, for full measure, here’s eCycle Security’s Facebook too. Be sure to watch their video for Indiegogo and support them here!
Thanks, Juan, for caring enough to make a difference.
Photography by Morgan Burden