Today is Digital TV Switch Day, Don't Turn it Into Toxic E-Waste Day


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Digital Switch: Please Recycle Your Old Television
Last November, John wrote about the potential dangers of a surge of toxic e-waste caused by the switch to digital TV (this affects people who get their signal over the air and don't have a digital converter box). Back then, the digital switch date was supposed to be February, but it was extended by lawmakers because people were not ready. Well, ready or not, today is the date. What will this mean for electronic-waste and the environment?
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Only a Small Fraction of Toxic TVs are Recycled
With only about 18% of the 23.9 million toxic CRT TVs thrown out in 2008 having been recycled, there is still a lot of room for improvement, and the time for that is now (well, it was a long time ago, but it's too late for that).

Last year John wrote on TreeHugger:

What makes this mass dumping of "analog" TVs a particularly egregious hazard is that the US continues to refuse to ratify the Basel Convention, which was created to restrict the international trade in hazardous goods. In fact, the USA and Canada both are listed as in the "Hall Of Shame," for acting to undermine the Convention. As a result, millions of cathode ray tubes could end up in developing nations. To mitigate this risk, three things have to happen. Immediately, industry can take voluntary action; and, USEPA has to enforce existing regulations.

DTV Switch Surge
Recyclers are expecting a very busy time during the next few days, but sadly, only a small fraction of televisions that are thrown out even make it to them, and some of those that do aren't necessarily recycled in the most environmentally friendly ways.


Photo: Flickr, CC

There are some green groups that are lobbying to improve things:

(ALBANY, NY)—On the eve of the official switch from analog to digital television broadcasts on Friday, June 12th, environmental groups called on the New York State Legislature to pass legislation that will require manufacturers of TVs, computers, printers and other electronic waste, known as "e-waste," to take back their products and responsibly recycle them. [...]

Computer monitors and older TV picture tubes contain on average five pounds of lead and require special handling upon disposal. These items are often riddled with toxics and known carcinogens such as chromium, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, nickel, zinc and brominated flame retardants. When electronics are not disposed or recycled properly, they pose a threat to public health and the environment. Furthermore, reducing and recycling the raw materials in many electronics conserves natural resources and reduces air and water pollution.

Responsible recycling and take-back programs are required not just in the state of New York, but everywhere. We can't keep dumping heavy metals and toxic waste in landfills... We never should've done so in the first place.

But sadly, Jessica will probably feel some more eco-anxiety before things get better. This is a huge problem, and even if the political will was there, it would take some time to fix. All the more reasons to start NOW.

More on the Digital TV Switch and E-Waste
Number of the Day: 704.9 Million CRT Televisions
What Happens To E-Waste Generated By The Shift To High Definition Television?
Don't Kick Your TV to the Curb for the Digital Television Transition

Tags: Pollution | Television