Although we've seen George Jetson watch TV on a flat screen, it's not very likely that the rest of us will be doing so fifty years from now. Consumers are already watching more and more TV on their mobile devices or the Internet, and pushing their old TV sets out the door. How will we manage the ongoing environmental impact that the accumulation of toxic electronic waste, or e-waste brings? Moreover, how are electronics manufacturers implementing environmental sustainability efforts?
Americans produce an estimated three million tons of e-waste each year. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) predicts that if all sources of electronic waste are tallied, it could total 50 million tons a year worldwide, adversely affecting human health and the environment. China, regarded as the world's electronic graveyard, was the subject of the Basel Action Network's 2002 film "Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia." The documentary detailed numerous people of all ages from one town in the Guangdong Province who engaged in unsafe practices such as melting circuit boards to extract lead, and burning computer wire to expose copper.
The EPA's ENERGY STAR program has generated impressive energy efficiency results since it was established in 1992. ENERGY STAR-certified products, which have helped to reduce greenhouse gas, include: appliances; building products; computers; electronics; heating and cooling; and water heaters.
Samsung Electronics, Co., Ltd. created the Evolution Kit to fight the growing TV e-waste problem. The company introduced their new device at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show. The Evolution Kit is a small box that plugs into the back of the TV, and is designed to upgrade Samsung's 2012 Smart TV models to 2013 sets with the same features. According to the company, the Evolution Kit: "allows consumers to enjoy the latest features and services every year without having to purchase a brand new TV.”
Another electronics manufacturer leading the way in sustainability is LG Electronics USA. The company is working to significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of their U.S. operations by 2020. In December 2012, LG entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the EPA (the first such agreement of its kind) to work together with the government agency on various environmental sustainability initiatives.
Websites such as Nextworth and Gazelle offer money to consumers interested in trading in their used electronics, while helping to reduce e-waste. What imprint are you leaving on the environment with your next electronic purchase?