NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

What To Do With That Old TV?

July 14, 2000

It's a problem that's only going to get worse: how to dispose of old television sets and outmoded wireless phones, computers and monitors. Experts say that trashing electronics products poses potential dangers, since they contain harmful metals -- such as nickel in batteries and lead in TV tubes.

The refuse is expected to grow in this decade as consumers replace generations of televisions with new digital models.

  • In April, Massachusetts banned public disposal of TVs and computer screens -- urging residents to take advantage of an ad hoc network of charities and recyclers.
  • Florida and Connecticut are considering the same thing.
  • Last Fall, Minnesota's Office of Environmental Assistance joined Waste Management Inc. and the U.S. units of Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial companies to collect electronics gear in 32 of the state's 87 counties for three months.
  • In that experiment, the recycling cost was $10 to $15 a set -- which experts hope can be reduced to $2.50, about the cost of dumping a TV in a landfill.

The main problem, however, is simply getting TVs to a central location. The nation's largest TV recycling company, Environcycle Inc., of Hallstead, Pa., gets most of its sets from the junk piles of manufacturers. Just 10 percent comes from community collections. Those in the business expect that proportion to grow as more states impose limits on dumping.

Source: Evan Ramstad, "Where TVs Go When They Die," Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2000.


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