Monday, October 08, 2007


I heard a story on the way to work today (sorry, can't find a link) about how in the state of PA, 80% to 90% of so-called "e-Waste", electronics, computers, TVs, etc, ends up in the landfill as opposed to being recycled. There's a fear currently that with the nation going to digital TV broadcasts soon, millions of obsolete TV's are going to be dumped in the next couple of years, causing an even worse problem. There's a proposal out there to tack on a $6 or $7 tax on new TVs to fund "e-cycling" or recycling of this electronic waste so it avoids the landfill.

Opponents say this is the wrong path. Instead the burden should be put upon the manufacturers, so that they spend their resources developing more environmentally friendly products that can be recycled easier.

I'm having trouble with this theory. First of all, the story specifically talks about all the soon-to-be obsolete TVs out there about to be tossed. How will forcing manufacturers to come up with new ideas stop that from happening? Those TVs are already manufactured. While I agree that manufacturers need to adopt a "cradle-to-grave" mentality going forward, they got the story wrong in this case because it specifically talked about the mass dumping that will happen when we go to digital broadcasts.

Second, I don't buy that on January 1, 2009, millions of people are going to wake up and throw their TV's away. Many are on cable boxes, which do the job of converting the digital signal to analog as needed. There are doohickeys out there that will do this for you as well. And there's a huge population of folks out there that can't simply afford to toss a perfectly good TV and buy a new state-of-the-art digital one. I know I certainly don't plan to.

I don't mind the tax idea (as one of several solutions). If we can tax cigarettes and booze as luxuries, we can certainly do that to TVs nowadays. These days TVs are nothing if not luxuries, which you can easily see if you try to buy a basic, cheap TV. It's not easy to do.

I also don't think Americans will go out of their way to bring their electronics to recycling establishments, especially given how poorly the word seems to get out regarding the existence of said establishments. Personally I have a collection of about two dozen old telephone books in my garage. They are recyclable but cannot be included with regular recycling. I don't know where to bring them. Someday I will figure that out. Better yet, some day I will figure out how to stop Verizon from dumping an unwanted telephone book on my front lawn twice a year.

Personally, I found my own solution. With the addition we put on the house, we gained some virtually unusable attic space. It's got a low ceiling, a lot of insulation in the way, and it's tough to get to. A corner of it has recently become my electronics graveyard. I've already put two computers, a bin full of CD walkmans, casssette players and the like, an old stereo, and a few other gadgets in there, and frankly if we ever move I will likely leave the stuff up there given it is all tucked away in a corner the future owner likely won't see for years. I'll be happy to store your stuff too, say for $6 or $7 per month.

1 comment:

Shea said...

Here in the SF Bay area we have the Alameda County Computer Recycling Center. They recycle computer parts/tvs/what-have-you into stuff for schools - and they're not the only such org around here, just the largest.

I have given them countless deprecated monitors, laptops, and computers from my work, as well as scrap metal, vacuum cleaners, and enough power cords & internet cables to wire up Cambodia.

What they can't reuse they "recycle environmentally", which I have no idea what that means, but hey, at least SOME effort is being made. If it's even half of what they say, it really oughta go nation and world wide...