Many people are currently replacing their televisions. Most are buying new flat-screen LCD and plasma displays. Some want a bigger screen or better picture quality. Others want to be able to watch the new digital channels without a set-top box. But once they buy a new television they have to decide what to do with their old device.
Disposing of a television
Some people try donating old televisions to charities. But charities often do not accept them. Many charities have too many televisions already. Others lack someone suitably qualified to certify a television is safe to use.
Some people decide to use their old television in a garage or shed. More creative types try turning the television's cabinet into an aquarium or hamster cage. But unfortunately, too many unwanted televisions end up at the local council landfill. An old television might contain harmful elements. An analog TV can contain lead, barium, cadmium, mercury and phosphorous. These harmful elements can leach through landfills into local waterways.
Why not recycle?
Up to 95 per cent of a television is recyclable. The unit's glass, plastics, iron, steel, aluminium and copper can all be recycled. Televisions can also contain precious metals such as silver, platinum and gold.
Many Victorian councils recycle electronic waste, including televisions. For example, Ballarat City Council allows people to drop off their old televisions at their transfer station for free. The television is then broken down onsite into its recyclable elements.
A number of north-east Victorian councils are cooperating in implementing an electronic waste recycling program. They include the Alpine and Indigo shires and the Wangaratta and Benalla councils. From the end of July televisions will be collected from seven locations. They will then be taken to Melbourne for recycling.
The Rural City of Wangaratta estimates it costs $31,000 per year to recycle televisions and other electronic waste. That is why council says it will continue to charge for televisions dropped off at its waste transfer facility.
Free Victorian recycling scheme
The Victorian Government recently announced a free television recycling scheme in regional Victoria. The interim program is expected to divert 530 tonnes of municipal waste from landfill, including 90 tonnes of lead.
There are 11 council waste facilities where televisions can be dropped off. The locations are Bendigo, Ballarat, Colac, Hamilton, Horsham, Nhill, Mildura, Swan Hill, Wodonga, Sale and Shepparton. But you need to be quick as the scheme ends on July 31, 2011.
National recycling scheme
In the near future councils may no longer have to bear the cost of recycling televisions or charge ratepayers. The Product Stewardship Act has just been passed by the Federal Government. A national recycling scheme will soon be created as a result. Once the scheme is operating, manufacturers will take back electronic goods and recycle them. Electronics companies like Sony and Panasonic say they are happy to be part of the scheme.
I think a national recycling scheme should have been set up before the start of the conversion to digital television. The cost of recycling televisions should have been born by manufacturers instead of councils. Electronic manufacturers should long ago have taken responsibility for recycling their discarded products. After all, for decades they have used advertising to fuel consumer desire to upgrade their televisions.
The roll out of nationwide electronic waste collection services will take five years. But the analog signal will be turned off in the capital cities in 2013. I wondered whether the new scheme will be ready for the mass disposal of televisions around Melbourne. I spoke to a spokesperson at the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
The national television and computer product stewardship scheme is expected to be operational in time for the digital switchover in most of Australia, including major metropolitan centres, the spokesperson says.
How would you dispose of an unwanted television set? Let us know in the comments section below.