Sunday, February 15, 2009


Flow of analog TVs growing steadily
By Susan Abram, Staff Writer
Updated: 02/14/2009 11:36:50 PM PST

CANOGA PARK - The televisions keep coming, some with screens as wide as the back of an SUV, others as small as a child's tin lunchbox.

As the nation switches to new digital television technology, old analog TV sets are being discarded, some to places like The Salvation Army Family Store in Canoga Park, where more than a dozen or so of the TVs are donated each day.

Purchases of the old sets has been brisk, reported Capt. Sylvan Young of The Salvation Army.

"People buy 'em," he said. "They figure they'll just get the converter boxes, and they're all set."

Environmentalists say they are relieved that some of the analog sets are finding their way to resale, rather than clogging landfills nationwide and creating a soup of toxins such as lead to seep into the ground.

Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, however, warned that more TVs will be dumped once all television stations begin digital broadcasting, a changeover once set for Feb. 17 and now scheduled for June 12.

"Once you get past the dates when the switches will be made, we're going to see more unwanted televisions," she said.

Los Angeles city officials plan to hold a press conference Tuesday to remind residents of the digital television conversion and how to dispose properly of old televisions.

So far, Los Angeles city and county public works officials said, landfills are not overflowing with old televisions
nor is there an increase in curbside dumping.

City S.A.F.E. sites - solvents, automotive, flammables, electronics - where electronics can be turned over for free, are seeing an increase in computers and televisions being turned over for proper handling.

"It's gone up dramatically," said Dan Meyers, assistant division manager for the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, Bureau of Sanitation.

In 2002, the city collected 200,000 pounds of e-waste In 2008, the city collected 3.5 million pounds.

The materials are completely dismantled and separated into plastic, metal, glass, and hazardous materials such as lead, Meyers said.

California is ahead of the game when it comes to recycling electronics. In 2005, a law made it illegal for televisions, computers and other devices to be tossed in the trash.

In addition, consumers pay recyling fees that range from $8.50 to $25 on all electronic purchases.

The law seems to be working: California has paid recyclers for 540 million pounds of computers and televisions, said Andrew Hughan, spokesman for the California Integrated Waste Management Board.

"We expect to go over 600 million very quickly," he said. "There has been an uptick because of the conversion, but the economy went down so quickly. We expected a 20 percent increase between Jan. 1 and March, but it hasn't materialized."

Recyclers make about 17 cents a pound for goods, down from 24 cents just a year ago. The fear was that goods would be taken to other places, but that hasn't happened, Hughan said.

"Even though the commodities market has been very depressed, everybody's goal is to keep electronics out of the landfills," he said. "We're very pleased there hasn't been a rash of illegal dumping."

Representatives of the electronic industry expect that to continue.

"Environmentalists have portrayed the digital transition as an event of a lot of televisions thrown away, but we're not seeing that," said Parker Brugge, vice president of environmental affairs for the Consumer Electronics Association.

Elsewhere in the nation, a patchwork of recycling laws exists, varying from state to state. Some require manufacturers to pay recycling fees, while other municipalities have bans on dumping in landfills, but provide no or few e-waste sites or events.

Environmentalists and electronics industry officials hope legislation requiring a nationwide e-waste program will be passed in an Obama administration.

"We're looking for a comprehensive e-waste law," Brugge said. "Consumers would be more inclined to recycle if there was just one law for the U.S."

The electronics industry wants to see regulations on international shipping of e-waste to developing nations, where toxins have been found to leach into drinking water, he said.

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