LG's TV Recycling Program: Hip or Hype?


A whole lot of these, getting recycled. Photo via freakapotimus via Flickr CC

Switching over to digital TVs has caused a lot of e-waste. Last week we pointed out how it has been responsible for a 70% rise in tossed televisions in the UK, and similar concerns abound here in the US as we switched to digital. But it's not just homes that we need to think about, but also hotels. LG is helping hotels upgrade old TVs to energy efficient flat panel TVs, and has instituted the first TV recycling program for hotels. But is it cheer-worthy, or should it get filed away as a "duh" move any manufacturer should be making? According to CNN, hundreds of hotels are expected to upgrade to the energy-efficient LG TVs during 2010, with analogue picture TVs heading out the doors. LG - while obviously pushing for the upgrades - wants to put a green face forward (and perhaps also comply with electronics recycling laws set up in 19 states) and is offering hotel, motel and resort operators a "convenient, cost-effective opportunity" for recycling the hotel TVs being replaced.

But the problem here is that it seems to be a half-hearted attempt. If the company really cared about e-waste, they would be ensuring that all televisions being replaced get recycled, and not making it simply an option for hotels should they wish to recycle.

The article from CNN states, "Under this new program planned for launch in 2010, LG Electronics would facilitate the recycling process through Waste Management's subsidiary WM Recycle America LLC. In addition to offering the TV and monitor-recycling program, LG would assist hoteliers in working with WM to recycle the packaging from the new LG flat-panel HDTVs and computer monitors being installed in their properties."

The frightening thing, really, is that this is news-worthy. I take that back. The really frightening thing is this statement:

The Executive Director of the National Center for Electronics Recycling, Jason Linnell, called the LG hotel TV recycling concept "a significant new development" in the E-Waste arena. "Most voluntary and state-mandated efforts across the country have been focused on consumer recycling efforts. So, when you think of the millions of analog TVs being replaced in hotels across the country, this approach is particularly noteworthy. We urge hotel operators to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities."

Seriously? With e-waste being a major toxic issue worldwide, having this be a new big deal move - especially that it's optional and not mandatory when it concerns millions upon millions of TVs - is worrisome.

And yet...it's a new move. It has to be congratulated on some level. The Electronics Takeback Coalition rated TV manufacturers on their recycling programs, and gave LG a "C" - this might help to boost their score a bit for the report card.

And of course there's the issue of why the TVs are being replaced at all. There's the argument - and a legitimate one at that - that energy efficient digital TVs will have a lower carbon footprint than old analogue televisions with a new cable box. While that is debatable among households, when it comes to hotels where standby power for televisions is a big energy sucker, the upgrades could end up being a good green move. As long as the televisions are all donated or recycled.

"The program will leverage Waste Management's national network of over 200 recycling centers throughout the United States. The hotel TVs and computer monitors collected under this program will be processed in an environmentally responsible manner at one of four regionally designated Waste Management recycling facilities that are ISO 14001 and 9001 certified to protect the local environment in those communities along with the people handling this waste. Waste Management is also committed to the United States Environmental Protection Agency's R2 Standards for the management of electronic waste."

Why there isn't an emphasis on getting televisions donated to Goodwill centers and thrift stores - or even just encouraging hotels to list them on Craigslist as a freebie - is a mystery, since that would be cheap, easy, and even greener. But, we'll take what we can get.

More on Televisions as e-Waste
The Digital TV Switch Causes 70% Rise in e-Waste
What Happens To E-Waste Generated By The Shift To High Definition Television?
How Will the Digital Television Transition Impact the Environment?

Tags: E-Waste | Recycling

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