Digital Switch May Not Mean Disposal

On the eve of the transition to digital television, Houston
residents are being told not to trash their TVs. The digital switch could result in a wave of electronic waste to area landfills. Local lawmakers joined environmental advocates to encourage consumers to help protect the environment.Pat Hernandez has more.


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A worker at CompuCycle, an electronics recycling company, oversees a giant bin loaded with plastic that used to house computers, televisions and other electronic equipment. It’s being crushed to be eventually used again. It’s estimated that 70-percent of the lead and 40-percent of the mercury in landfills come from obsolete electronic waste. Clive Hess is vice president of CompuCycle. He says responsible disposal is the key.

“Making sure that when the product is demanufactured, that potentially toxic elements such as the glass, the boards, the batteries are sent to facilities that are licensed to process those properly.”

Zach Trahan with the Texas Campaign for the Environment, a non-partisan, non-profit organization, says last year alone, over 20-million obsolete television sets were tossed and less than 15-percent of them were sent to recyclers. Trahan says many of those recyclers were sham operations exporting electronic trash to be dumped overseas.

“Public education is very very important and, it’s also important that the manufacturers of these products step up to the plate and offer free and convenient ways for people to recycle their televisions.”  

The Texas Legislature approved a statewide TV recycling initiative that Governor Rick Perry is expected to sign. Houston state representative Carol Alvarado says the measure will help provide consumers with free convenient and environmentally sound recycling for old TV sets.

“It was very smart, very timely, requiring that manufacturers submit a plan and then a report to the legislature, so we can see how well it’s working but, we need to make smart, environmentally friendly choices.”

Hernandez: “The impetus behind this legislation…is it more to get rid of the dangerous stuff, or to be able to have another avenue to recycle?”

Alvarado: “I think it was two-fold, and just to, in general, to remind people that I could be harming the environment, ‘if I don’t dispose of this correctly, and TVs can be recycled so, that’s the environmentally green friendly thing to do, we’re trying to encourage everybody to engage in.”

To that end, Harris County Pct-2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia says residents can bring their old TVs and computer monitors for proper recycling on Saturday.

“Saturday will be the first day that people may think OK, now what do I do with the TV? Well, we want you to recycle it. Just bring them by. It’s opened to anybody from the county.”

More information on recycling efforts can be found at, or

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.

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