As much as American’s love their electronics, the manufacture, use, and disposal of electronic devices all represent hazards to the environment and ultimately to human health. The manufacture of electronics involves mining- often strip mining- which is bad for the environment for obvious reasons and a number of caustic chemicals that are used to make circuit boards and other components. The use of electronics requires consuming electricity, which has a high impact because most of electricity is generated using fossil fuels and nuclear power. Plus the batteries that store the power that our electronics run off of are notoriously poisonous. And the disposal of electronics creates a hazard because of all of the heavy metals that they contain. (And not just the TV sets that have displayed MTV.)
All of the environmental impacts and hazards create a variety of good arguments in favor of recycling old electronics as much as possible. Recycling decreases the amount of mining that has to be done to acquire the raw materials needed to manufacture new electronics. Recycling requires less energy than processing the materials that go into electronics from their raw form. And recycling keeps all of the toxic materials that are contained in used electronics out of the environment so that they can’t do damage to the living things that rely on a clean environment.
Of course, the major problem with recycling electronics has been figuring out where to take them for recycling. Even recycling old batteries- which are the most toxic electronic component and the component that most often wears out first- is difficult simply because no one knows where to take them. Fortunately, this is getting better, with battery recycling drop off points in Radio Shacks and Lowes Home Improvement centers, but it’s definitely far from universal.
Now Sony is making it easier to recycle old TV sets by opening recycling centers all over the country. The decision to implement this recycling program was prompted by concern about all of the analog TV sets that are likely to be junked in response to the switch to all digital TV transmissions in the winter of 2009. In an effort to create a friendlier public image, Sony will accept any TV set that it manufactured free of charge. It considers this to be the responsible thing to do in order to take care of its products for their entire life cycle.
In addition to accepting Sony TV sets free of charge, Sony’s recycling centers will also accept TV sets made by other companies for a small fee. The reasoning is that Sony is only responsible for the life cycle’s of its own products and that it’s worth paying a nominal fee for consumers to know that their old TV sets are being disposed of responsibly.
Sony’s recycling program shows a decent amount of initiative and is definitely a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. After all, TV sets are far from the only electronics that could be recycled and that can cause harm to the environment if they aren’t recycled. Also, the consumer electronics industry should be putting greater emphasis on making recycling more economical. After all, instead of being paid to take old electronics, manufacturers should be able to look at the old electronics as resources that can be used to create new products more economically. In the meantime, Sony’s efforts are definitely worth of praise.