New York Times
Nathanial Gronoewold and Greenwire
There is growing concern that the United States» conversion last weekend from analog to digital television broadcasting will exacerbate a national e-waste problem and fuel the smuggling of cathode ray tubes to the developing world.
The digital transition, coupled with the popularity of newer flat-screen TVs, could see millions of sets heading to landfills or loosely regulated recycling facilities over the next few years, experts say. The reason, they say, is the growth of high-definition channels that will remain off-limits to old TVs, even those with digital converter boxes.
E-waste watchdogs say electronics recyclers are already reporting a big influx of older televisions, especially in states where governments have instituted comprehensive recycling rules. Old TV sets hold large quantities of cadmium, lead and chemicals used to make plastics and other materials flame resistant. (…)
U.S. EPA estimates that there were almost 100 million old televisions in storage across the United States at the end of 2007. Though the nation is not likely to see a massive rush of old TVs inundating landfills or recyclers immediately, the volume of waste is expected to increase substantially over the next few years as consumers turn to newer, HD-ready sets and demand for older models declines.(…)
Seattle-based Basel Action Network (BAN), an organization pushing for the United States to ratify the Basel Convention on international hazardous waste shipment, estimates that at least one in four households will get rid of an old TV this year following the digital transition. That could come out to some 28 million cathode ray tubes — each containing roughly 5 pounds of lead on average, depending on the screen size — ending up in the waste stream.
Much of this waste will be recycled domestically. But Sarah Westervelt, a BAN official, said some 80 percent will actually be shipped abroad for processing in China and Africa, in violation of provisions of the Basel treaty that ban the shipment of toxic waste from the rich countries to poor ones.
«Exports are not quantified because the U.S. has not ratified the Basel Convention, and therefore we are not controlling or monitoring our exports,» Westervelt said…