News | 23rd May, 2010

It might look like just an old TV, but it contains all the ingredients for an environmental time bomb

Sunday, 23 May 2010
The Age

Along with the ubiquitous broken armchairs and old mattresses, millions of unwanted televisions are now jostling for footpath space on hard-waste collection days.

But unlike most other discarded household goods, these televisions – many of which are still working but have been superseded by high-definition flat-screens – are loaded with toxic chemicals that, once dumped in landfill, become an environmental time bomb.

The federal government's waste management report, released this month, shows that almost 17 million televisions, computers and computer accessories were discarded in 2007-08 – 84 per cent of them into rubbish tips, despite most components being recyclable.

Even if just one-third of these items were televisions – each of which contain almost two kilograms of toxic chemicals, including lead, mercury, chlorine, chromium, lithium and nickel cadmium – that would mean an estimated 8460 tonnes of hazardous chemicals went into landfill.

The report warns that electronic waste is increasing three times faster than any other kind of waste and predicts that, unless habits change, 44 million TVs, computers and other electronic goods will be discarded in 2028.

But despite the growing mountains of rubbish, a national ''e-waste'' recycling scheme announced 12 months ago has yet to be implemented.

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