DVD, DTV, TiVo, MP3. No, it's not a foreign language, but it is one of the fastest growing consumer markets today.
So what of the motto, "Out with the old and in with the new." As DVD and TiVo replace the VCR, and DTV and plasma replace the TV, what should you do with your old, outdated electronic equipment?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, personal computers, TVs, and cell phones are a fast growing portion of America's trash - discarded mobile phones will result in 65,000 tons of waste by 2005. More than 3.2 million tons of electronic waste is laid to rest in landfills each year.
Electronics are made with valuable materials like steel, glass, plastic and precious metals. Yet, the EPA reports that in 2001, only 11 percent of personal computers retired in the U.S. were recycled.
We all know recycling is one of the best things a person can do to help the environment. But what happens when you want to recycle something far more complicated than an empty soda can?
According to the Consumer Electronics Association Market Research's annual U.S. Consumer Electronics and Sales Forecast report, sales of consumer electronics products will total a record $99.5 billion in 2003, marking a 3.5 percent increase over 2002.
"The future of our industry is bright, even as some individual companies face challenges," said CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro. "Twenty years ago our industry sales were $14.1 billion. In 2003, we will be close to $100 billion in sales...despite economic uncertainties, consumers are finding compelling reasons to upgrade from analog to new digital products."
But the EPA reports that TVs and computers can contain an average of four pounds of lead (depending on their size, make, and vintage), as well as other potential toxins. They also say cell phones need special handling because they contain lead and brominated flame-retardants that need to be handled carefully.
So how do you recycle?
The EPA is launching the Plug-In to Recycling campaign, aimed at raising the awareness of the value of reusing and recycling electronics and to provide us with a means to do so.
Partners Best Buy, AT&T Wireless, Sony, Panasonic, Dell, Sharp, Recycle America (a wholly owned subsidiary of Waste Management, Inc.), Envirocycle, Inc. and nxtcycle also support the program, which allows consumers to drop off used electronic equipment at various campaign partners' locations. The program also encourages donating outdated yet functional electronic equipment to charity.
The campaign is one of several new EPA efforts under the Agency's Resource Conservation Challenge, which seeks to increase the national recycling rate from 30 to 35 percent and cut the generation of 30 harmful chemicals by 2005.
Under the RCC, the EPA is working with electronics manufacturers, retailers, recyclers, and government agencies to reduce the environmental impacts of electronic products during their production, use and disposal.
RCC efforts also include the EPA's Energy Star program, which encourages the manufacture and use of energy-efficient products.
Energy Star, which offers businesses and consumers energy-efficient solutions, was introduced by the U.S. EPA in 1992 as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
The EPA then partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy in 1996 to promote the Energy Star label. Since then, Energy Star has expanded to cover new homes, most of the buildings sector, residential heating and cooling equipment, major appliances, office equipment, lighting and consumer electronics.
To recycle your outdated electronic equipment, contact: