The death of analog TV, after a glorious 60-year run, and the transition to digital broadcasting marks the most significant change in television since Technicolor.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the now open airwaves previously occupied by analog broadcasting are being bought up by companies like Qualcomm.
The digital provider recently spent $500 million on new airwaves and is launching its television service for cellphones, TV FLO, in 39 cities this weekend. Aside from the timely business opportunities and the obvious consumer benefit, the transition to digital poses some questions about our environmental capability to handle analog's disposal.
On Sunday, the Nielson Company estimated that around 2.5 percent of the television market, or 2.8 million households, were not ready for the digital transition. Even if a majority of these households install a converter box, there will inevitably be thousands of televisions requiring disposal.
National Geographic's Green Guide notes that televisions are extremely harmful waste products, containing plastics and four pounds of lead on average. After their disposal, electronic waste products are often exported to the developing world where the products are burned under no regulations as highlighted in a recent 60 Minutes investigative report.
According to the Basal Action Network's e-Stewards initiative, the United States and Canada have not legislated a national system to responsibly deal with electronic waste, unlike the E.U.
"Instead of properly regulating electronic waste management and trade," they wrote, "the EPA has tried to bring interest groups together to create voluntary solutions. These efforts have ended in failure or have produced little more than minimalist, 'lowest-common denominator' standards."
If disposal standards remain self-regulated and the onus is on manufacturers, they should follow Dell's lead and formally ban electronic waste exports to developing countries and consider implementing mechanisms to recapture and recycle their own electronics, a policy advocated by a new consumer campaign unequivocally titled Take Back My Tv.