Tomorrow the United States will finally make the transition to digital television. The government went to great expense to ensure a smooth transition, and planned it for years. But what happens to all those aging TVs when people toss the rabbit ears and decide to buy a new set?
The answer: no one really knows. CBS ran a report called “The Electronic Wasteland” on “60 Minutes” in November 2008 that tracked some of the tech trash back to rural areas of China. Children were found with high levels of lead in their blood, and played in toxic ash. Government officials, gangsters, and economically disadvantaged people were complicit in hiding the activity.
E-waste from cell phones, monitors, and PCs contains cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, and PVCs. CBS’s report said that the U.S. municipal waste stream contains 130,000 computers a day, and 100 million cells phones per year. Those toxins can lead to cancer, lead poisoning, and kidney disease. Tha’s why there are recycling centers, right?
As it turns out, even some recycling programs are fraudulent. Last month, an environmental group called Basel Action Network (BAN) uncovered a recycling scheme that was sponsored by the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. The tech trash that was supposed to be recycled was tracked to international shipping containers.
That violates domestic and international law that is supposed to protect developing nations from environment discrimination.
We spent billions to keep our TVs broadcasting, why not spend money to manage toxins? Here’s a thought: hardware makers should be required to receive and process their old products, and you and I should absorb some of that cost.