A Texas TV Wasteland

Bill HB 821 designed to increase recycling of televisions in the state of Texas

Haylley Johnson

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With the date of the analog to digital television signal switch looming closer, reality has become more prominent - millions of unused analog televisions have the potential to wind up in Texas landfills. Alongside this threat, recycling has risen higher on many individuals' to-do lists, including the Texas Legislature's.

Even if it might not be yet in vogue to recycle one's television, HB 821, otherwise known as the TV TakeBack bill, was approved by the Texas Senate. Since May 31, it has been waiting on the desk of Gov. Rick Perry for his signature of approval.

If it officially becomes law, the TV TakeBack bill will obligate all TV manufacturers to provide a free television recycling plan for their customers if they want to be able to sell their products inside Texas borders, said Rob Borja, chief of staff for San Antonio Rep. David Leibowitz.

Borja said that the bill's first draft required some changes because TV manufacturers initially opposed the bill which, in its early stages, added televisions to a similar computer-recycling bill passed in 2007.

Televisions have a nasty habit of sticking around for a truly extensive length of time, even outlasting the lifespan of their own manufacturers.

To deal with this problem, “the manufacturers wanted a market share set up” Borja said. If a manufacturer only sells 20 percent of its televisions in Texas, then it will only has to recycle 20 percent of televisions turned in for recycling, while televisions beyond that 20 percent are given to other manufacturers in the market to recycle, he said.

“The enforcement mechanism `for this bill` is that retailers are not allowed to sell any TVs from manufacturers that do not have a recycling plan,” Borja said.

Manufacturer recycling plans must be approved by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality no later than May 1, 2010.

“We are going to use a stakeholder process” in which everyone who is impacted by this legislation will be sought out for their input prior to the formulation of the rules, Director of the Small Business and Environmental Assistance Division for TCEQ, Brian Christian, said. “The stakeholder meetings would be a part of the overall rule-making process.” The process of creating the regulations can take anywhere from six to nine to ten months.

While these TCEQ rules are yet to be laid down, Sony appears to be getting a jump start at Bjorn's on US 281.

Assistant sales-floor manager Joey Martinez said “Sony is getting ready to launch a recycling and environmental awareness program specifically in Bjorn's because we have a Sony gallery.”

With the switch from analog to digital television signals coming up on June 12, the importance of TV manufacturers' recycling program is growing. Jeffery Jacoby, Texas Campaign for the Environment program director for Dallas/Fortworth, said “we anticipate that there will be millions of TVs that will be rendered obsolete . . . we have a responsibility to prevent these TVs from making their way to landfills.”

Yet the bill is not perfect. “The problems with the legislation are that the bill will not be enforced until after the switch from analog to digital `and that` there are no incentives in the bill for manufacturers to begin their programs early,” he said.

“While there are shortcomings if you look at the long term, this is a great investment in our future,” Jacoby said.

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