Drowning in e-waste

As digital TVs replace analog sets and more TVs end up in landfill, what can be done about recycling?
 
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  • Updated:5 Aug 2009
 

01.Drowning in e-waste

Approximately 1.5 million obsolete TV sets are sent to landfill each year and this number is to set to escalate as the digital network rolls out, according to Tipping Point: Australia’s E-waste Crisis, a report by the Total Environment Centre (TEC).

The report says fewer than 1% of TVs are currently recycled. Jeff Angel, TEC Director, blames poor recycling rates on the limited options available. “If you’re lucky, your local council might have a collection date or you may live near one of the few recycling plants.” He is calling for new regulations that put the onus on industry to ensure proper recycling mechanisms are put in place.

The switch to a digital network is set to officially start next year and continue through to 2013. The TEC report predicts an extra two million TVs will end up in landfill next year, totalling almost 19 million by 2010.

The federal government is looking at options for a national recycling scheme to deal with increasing TV and computer waste. Their decision is expected in November, but there is no timeframe or introducing legislation.

According to the report, an average cathode ray tube TV contains about 3.5kg of lead and a smaller amount of the more toxic mercury. It also argues that if 1.25 million TVs were recycled, 23,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions would be conserved – equivalent to about 5300 cars off the road for a year.

The TEC supports a national “extended producer responsibility” approach, which would make producers responsible for collection and recycling, passing those costs on to consumers. “Because waste management comes out of council rates, householders don’t realise the more things they buy the more they have to pay for landfill,” says Victoria Coleman, CHOICE Senior Sustainability Policy Officer. “A user-pays scheme might help consumers ask, ‘do I need a new TV this year, or could I wait?’”

If you don’t want to rush into buying a digital TV, a set-top box is a viable alternative if you have good TV reception. If after installing the set-top box you discover it doesn’t work because of poor reception, you are entitled to return it. For your nearest TV recycling plant call Planet Ark on 1300 733 712, visit Recycling Near You or contact your council to find out if it collects e-waste.

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