Page last updated at 14:21 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

Campaigners highlight 'toxic TVs'

By Maggie Shiels
BBC News technology reporter, Las Vegas

Zombie protesters at CES 09
Campaigners say more should be done to recycle old TVs

Campaigners are warning of a flood of toxic waste from old TVs and have called on manufacturers to do more to recycle them.

The Electronics TakeBack Coalition (ETC) took their protest to the world's biggest electronics show in Las Vegas.

Protesters, dressed like zombies, were at CES to highlight the potential health risks from dumped TVs.

"TVs are full of toxic materials and they live on, even when you throw them away," said ETC's Barbara Kyle.

The ETC estimates that monitors and televisions contain an average 3.62kg of lead, which can be very toxic, especially to children.

"An average home has two or three televisions per household," Ms Kyle added.

"The US Environment Protection Agency says there are 99 million unused stored TVs in the US. They are unused and sitting there stored in the closet."

TV Tax

The coalition also produced a "report card" to highlight which companies have dealt with TV waste well and which have not.

While Sony was top of the list for being the first to introduce a voluntary programme to take back waste, most, like JVC, Mitsubishi, and Hitachi, were given a failing grade for having no scheme at all.

Old TV set
Lead is found in the cathode ray tubes of TVs and monitors

Ms Kyle said manufacturers have a long road ahead.

"We want this industry to step up and make it easy for consumers to find a responsible recycling programme to take their TVs back and not throw them in the trash."

New York State Assembly member William Colton, chair of the Legislative Committee on Solid Waste management, has suggested a tax on TV makers to hold them responsible for materials going into their products.

"If we can tax soda based on the claim that it is increasing childhood obesity, than we can tax manufacturers for their production of harmful metals in electronics, which, if leeched into the air or water, can cause developmental problems in children if they are exposed," said Mr Colton.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said this week its recycling program, eCycling, collected and recycled close to 31,000 tonnes of used electronics in 2008, nearly a 30% increase over 2007.

That includes computer waste as well as televisions.

EPA under fire

Meanwhile, the US Government Accountability Office late last year lambasted the EPA and electronics recycling efforts in general.

It said many American companies were dumping everything from cell phones and old computers to televisions in countries such as China and India, where disposal practices were dangerous to people and the environment.

The coalition's protest at CES comes ahead of the changeover from an analogue to digital TV signal in America next month, which will lead to millions of analogue TVs will become obsolete.

Ms Kyle predicting they will end up in landfill sites.

"Lots and lots of TVs will be thrown away with the switchover and we want the companies that are trying to persuade everyone to buy new sets to take them back and recycle them," she said.

"It's time to take responsibility and follow the lead of the computer companies with free take-back programmes. It's time to step up and be counted."

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