Another DTV Transition Cost: Tech Trash

By  |  Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Tomorrow the United States will finally make the transition to digital television. The government went to great expense to ensure a smooth transition, and planned it for years. But what happens to all those aging TVs when people toss the rabbit ears and decide to buy a new set?

The answer: no one really knows. CBS ran a report called “The Electronic Wasteland” on “60 Minutes” in November 2008 that tracked some of the tech trash back to rural areas of China. Children were found with high levels of lead in their blood, and played in toxic ash. Government officials, gangsters, and economically disadvantaged people were complicit in hiding the activity.

E-waste from cell phones, monitors, and PCs contains cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, and PVCs. CBS’s report said that the U.S. municipal waste stream contains 130,000 computers a day, and 100 million cells phones per year. Those toxins can lead to cancer, lead poisoning, and kidney disease. Tha’s why there are recycling centers, right?

As it turns out, even some recycling programs are fraudulent. Last month, an environmental group called Basel Action Network (BAN) uncovered a recycling scheme that was sponsored by the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. The tech trash that was supposed to be recycled was tracked to international shipping containers.

That violates domestic and international law that is supposed to protect developing nations from environment discrimination.

We spent billions to keep our TVs broadcasting, why not spend money to manage toxins? Here’s a thought: hardware makers should be required to receive and process their old products, and you and I should absorb some of that cost.


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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Dave Barnes Says:

    Don’t recycle.
    Just toss into the local dump.
    That way those valuable materials will be close at hand when we run out.

  2. JDoors Says:

    When I buy a new car battery or tires, there’s a ‘recovery’ charge listed separately on the bill, allegedly to pay for proper recycling. However, I suspect most of that gets frittered away, with very little actually going to solve the problems of toxic waste. Tires and batteries are still being shipped overseas to minimally or un-regulated recyclers.

    Apparently, there just aren’t enough concerned (or economically self-destructive) citizens to force the TRUE costs of recycling onto ourselves. I know I’m perfectly happy to have my glass, metal, paper and plastic hauled away each week for “free” (even though I know it’s not really free) and much of it cannot and never will be economically recycled and winds up in a landfill anyway. But hey, “I recycle!”

    The true costs of recycling electronics? Whoa. I don’t even want to think about that. (Guess I’m not concerned enough …)

  3. ecco6t9 Says:

    When I take cans in I get paid.

    When I take and old broken monitor in I have to pay them, when I can just dump it at the lot 2 blocks over.

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