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Televisions become a load of old rubbish

Fewer than 1 per cent of old television sets are being recycled and about 7 million of them will end up in landfill over the next five years as Australia switches to digital TV, a new report has found.

The government's ''digital tracker'' reports show a recycling rate of 73 per cent for old TVs, but most of that figure actually refers to television sets that are stored, sold and donated, rather than recycled.

The national television recycling scheme is not expected to be operational for another three years, even though many areas will lose their analogue broadcast signals before then, research by the Total Environment Centre shows.

The gap between the analogue switch-off and a system to pick up and recycle old televisions is expected to leave a legacy of about 30,000 tonnes of toxic minerals, mostly lead, and chemicals being buried in landfill dumps.

The federal government does not dispute the figures but said it expects a national recycling scheme, under which electronics importers will take responsibility for recycling their old products, to begin next year.

''The passage of the Commonwealth legislation and subsequent roll-out of the television and computer recycling scheme will be in time for the commencement of the switch-over to digital in most of Australia,'' the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, said.

''The product stewardship legislation is expected to be implemented in 2011.''

Interim schemes are being set up to collect TVs in some areas, the government said, but at present most people who want to get rid of TVs have to personally drop them off at a recycling centre, and sometimes have to pay for the privilege.

''The failure of the federal government to co-ordinate between the digital switch-over and the start of the national television recycling scheme has directly resulted in well over 840,000 television sets being dumped on nature strips and in landfills across the country,'' the Total Environment Centre's report, The Great Digital Switch Dump, concluded.

''Unless there is action to bridge the gap, millions more televisions will unnecessarily go to landfill, creating a toxic legacy and wasting essential resources.''

The report urged the federal government to liaise with local councils to run regular kerbside collection runs to pick up old TV sets and reuse the minerals in them.

The television industry has a goal of collecting and recycling 75 per cent of all old sets by 2016, and is supportive of a national scheme.

It would be funded by a small levy on TV sales, amounting to a few dollars per set, which would pay for collecting and recycling.

Polls show strong public support for the plan.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au


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