Tech: TV Turnover

By Susan Cosier

Whether you’re watching Elaine dance awkwardly on Seinfeld reruns or Manny Ramirez hit a homer on ESPN, the picture is always clearer on a digital television. A new federal regulation requires all TVs to be digital-ready by February 17, 2009, when stations will stop broadcasting in analog. An estimated 22 to 25 million households still use conventional TVs. The switch, combined with falling DTV prices, means that millions of households may soon dump their old sets. “There will be a glut of e-waste” once the regulation goes into effect, says Kate Sinding, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Luckily, you can make the swap in an environmentally friendly way. Before blowing dough on a plasma, consider buying an analog-to-digital converter box if you don’t have cable (cable and satellite providers automatically switch the signal). The boxes cost between $40 and $70, and the FCC will issue up to two $40 coupons per household for the devices.    

If you spring for a new TV, be sure to properly dispose of the old one. Most e-waste is shipped overseas to countries with lax disposal laws, where contaminants like lead, mercury, and flame retardants leech into soil and waterways. Currently there are no federal laws governing e-waste disposal, so companies don’t have to provide take-back programs or disclose where they ship their hazardous trash.

However, eco options exist. The FCC recommends checking to find recycling centers near you. Also, a growing number of states are developing their own disposal legislation. Ten states now have e-waste laws, though only California’s and Maine’s are active. So before you kick your bunny-eared box to the curb, check local regulations, and watch Elaine and Manny with a clear conscience.                     
—Susan Cosier

Issue 25

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