Analog TV disposal no small task

TOKYO —

“The graveyards of analog TV” reads the headline in the stark, black-and-white two-page photo spread in Shukan Post (July 1). Just off a rural hiking trail in Iga City, Mie Prefecture—a town famous in olden times for training ninja—were dozens of illegally discarded analog TVs.

A sign along a forest road in Wakayama Prefecture urges passers by: “Use your cell phone camera to shoot the license place of illegal dumpers, and you’ll become eligible to draw for a free vacation in Okinawa!”

Aside from creating eyesores, the glass in the monitors of CRT TVs contains lead, a toxic substance. Left out in the rain, these TVs may pollute the soil and ground water.

From December 2003 to the present, the changeover from analog to digital TV on July 24 has rendered obsolete some 80 million TV sets, the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association estimates.

The great analog TV die-off now appears to be peaking. In 2009, the nation’s 49 disassembly and recycling plants for discarded TVs processed 9.21 million sets; last year the figure leaped to 15.6 million. And more are coming.

While reassuring data from the government claims that nearly all the nation’s households (around 98% at the end of May) will be digital-ready when the big day comes, small businesses and commercial users—hotels, hospitals, schools and others—are reportedly lagging behind in efforts to upgrade. An estimated 31.2 million of these analog units are about to become obsolete, although perhaps two-thirds may still be usable through connection to analog-to-digital converters.

One thing that’s certain: there are a lot more TVs than there are facilities for recycling with them. This is borne out by 2010 figures from Ecology Ministry showing a gap between the 17.37 million TVs collected and 15.6 million that underwent recycling. What happened to the other 1.77 million? Officially no one knows—they just vanished.

“When the disassembly/recycling plants can’t keep up with the manufacturers’ requests, they’ll subcontract the overflow to companies like us,” says a trash collector in Kansai. “Since they want to avoid the high charges of warehousing the TVs, more of them have been coming to us to deal with the overflow. Business has picked up quite a bit since last year.”

Since the rush on new models last year, the problem of disposing of analog TVs has also affected retail sales.

“Nearly all customers who buy a new digital model request that their old TV be discarded,” says a appliance dealer in Tokyo. “But the transport companies say their storage facilities for the old TVs are filled to overflowing, so we’re having to turn down customers’ requests.”

Some of the analog models, mostly those with screens of less than 20 inches, can be exported for re-use in countries using the same NTSC format as Japan, such as the Philippines, Myanmar and Peru.

“They sell for between 300 to 400 yen per unit, with a margin less than 100 yen per set,” one such exporter tells the magazine. “There’s no money to be made, but the old TVs keep coming, so we don’t have any other choice but to ship them.”

Meanwhile, the illegal dumping continues unabated. And it’s not necessarily confined to rural districts. A worker at the Nagoya city office’s environment section says more people have been shamelessly discarding analog TVs on the streets in drinking areas or along sidewalks, or at refuse pick-up points.

“From the start of this year, illegal dumping has picked up sharply,” he tells Shukan Post. “Just in April and May, we had to dispose of 328 sets. The cost must be covered by public funds. It’s a real headache.”

  • 3

    sillygirl

    japan and the industry has had years to prepare for this. another case of trying to close the barn door while the horses are running. what is it with the country that they cannot plan??????

  • 1

    brucefromaustra

    I remember walking the Iya Valley in Shikoku, seeing a pyramid of dumped TVs along with other large appliances, even a bus tumbled down to the river. Not quite the "idyllic picture of a misty valley of thatch-roofed houses, stuck in a time warp to days gone by". But a friend in a small village told me with shock, how high the fine for dumping a TV was for his friend.

  • 4

    Virtuoso

    I felt like a chump, throwing away a perfectly good 28" Mitsubishi TV last December. My cable provider left me no choice as they cut off analog at the end of 2010. Am I happier with a new LCD TV? No. In particular, it seems whenever I'm seated in front of the boob tube, CNNJ is showing either 1) sports news or 2) an interview with some airhead 'celebrity' I've never heard of. As for the Japanese channels -- I will turn on NHK to find out the magnitude of the latest aftershock, but program contents are simply not worth the expense of electric current. Now I realize I should have cancelled the cable contract, kept my old CRT TV and painted a landscape in oils on the glass.

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    "Aside from creating eyesores, the glass in the monitors of CRT TVs contains lead, a toxic substance. Left out in the rain, these TVs may pollute the soil and ground water."

    So Fukushima is 'not harmful to humans' in terms of pollution, and naysayers on here say there's no trouble, but suddenly people are concerned about the environmental impact of TVs? Interesting flip.

    That said, it IS disgusting to see the discarded TVs and other appliances (since the money for collection law came into place under Koizumi), but what are you going to do? There are a number of junk dealers who recently collect old TVs for 1500 yen instead of the usual 3600 yen, which is helping a lot, but with the entire nation shifting to digital format they need to provide a window in which collection of analog TVs is either free or a lot cheaper than now -- else there'll be a lot more pollution in the next two months, which I reckon will require a lot more money than the government would get for allowing things to be collected for free (assuming they bother to try and clean up).

  • 0

    tmtmsnb

    They export (or smuggle out?) these discarded Japanese TV and other appliances to Southeast Asian countries, sold as "Japanese Surplus", often with a transformer (for 100 volt) thrown in.

  • -2

    presto345

    what is it with the country that they cannot plan

    Cool it. Who exactly do you target with 'the country'? It's the consumers who have know for many years about the switch over but have been stalling till the last minute, thinking the prices of new sets would drop to rock bottom. The latter being true.

    A good CRT TV can still be used for years with a simple, inexpensive converter, which is what I opted for with the TV in the bedroom!

  • 0

    TimeiClic

    The discrepancy between the high quality of TV sets being sold in Japan, compared to what most people watch on them is vast.

    Like drinking Fukushima Dai-Ichi water from a vintage cut crystal goblet.

  • 0

    Serrano

    "illegally discarded analog TVs"

    There wouldn't be so many illegally discarded TVs and other sodai gomi if it didn't cost so much to have it picked up.

  • 0

    kaminarioyaji

    Presto345 -

    I think Sillygirl might be referring to this line

    there are a lot more TVs than there are facilities for recycling with them.

  • 0

    ihavegreatlegs

    I thought they sent this stuff over to China...well at least in the good old days they did.

  • 0

    Farmboy

    Buy 'em up now, and then sell them in 30 years as a conversation piece at the antique mall. "Yes, Johnny. When I was young, all the TVs were big like this one."

    Probably the ones with genuine wood-grain plastic will sell best.

  • 0

    gaijintraveller

    Silly girl says: "What is it with the country that they cannot plan??????"

    The Japanese do plan. They love planning. They have many meetings in which they plan.

    They are still planning.

  • 0

    Yubaru

    Japan should have "planned" for the disposal of all the analog TV's prior to deciding to go digital. Use taxpayers money to pay for since it is costing consumers a ton of cash to change over their TV's without by the way, the consent of the public I might add.

  • 0

    bookowls

    We've had digital TV in our house for several years now, but the analog TV in my son's bedroom works perfectly fine! All these cable companies telling you to throw them away are probably in cahoots with NHK! (Buy a TV and it has to be registered with NHK)

  • 0

    Yubaru

    I have an analog TV that works fine as well, and my wife bought the digital adapter for it and it's works fine. Well worth the 3,000 yen or so that it cost us. Seems like a waste to just toss the TV just because of the turnover.

    Eventually it will become my sons main TV for their PS.

  • 0

    griff

    i remember seeing a tv show about recycling analogue tvs in the uk recently - done efficiently on a big enough scale, there is money to be made; these devices contain valuable materials that can be reused, melted down and sold on. so why isn't someone doing this?

  • 0

    Zenny11

    griff.

    They are doing it but the recycling places ran out of storage as they got more than they can process for a long time already.

    Recall a TV-show that showed a company that does recycling for PC's, cel-phones up in Saitama, they pour a few Bars of gold a week and that is just the gold they extracted.

    Said that not really a need to ditch that analog TV, just get a Digi-tuner for 3.000Yen at the local store.

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