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Digital television and product stewardship in Australia

I was going to write a whinge about digital TV and the number of old TVs that were no doubt being thrown out as a result of changing from analogue to digital TV, but as I was looking for more info, I found out that Australia has finally made some progress on product stewardship and recycling of TVs and monitors.......

A couple of years ago we owned three TVs, one tiny old 15" that my husband had owned since his  apprenticeship, a 32" cathode ray that was bought to replace the tiny one, and another very old (no remote) 32" that was given to us by a friend who upgraded.  We were perfectly happy with these TVs on analogue signals and had no intention of buying a flat screen.  But then the government decided to change to digital TV, and the analogue signal was to be turned off in the next few years (earlier in rural areas than the city for some reason).  I have NO idea how this was justified, I can only assume that its good for the TV channels, so they lobbied for it.  All that we've ended up with is extra channels that play the same crap great programs on each channel or repeats of old crap great programs, and twice as many opportunities for ads.

Anyway, this means at the very least, that everyone has to buy a set-top box to plug into their old TVs to receive the digital signal.  This also means that all old TVs (such as ours with no remote) that don't have the right ports to take a set top box, are basically useless.  We took the poor old thing to the tip when we moved (I feel so guilty writing that, but it was huge and we had nowhere to store it) and we told the guys at the tip that it still worked, and they pointed to a mountain of TVs that they had already rescued and said they had been banned from rescuing any more of them.

We bought a set-top box for the other TV.  The results were disappointing (even though the government propaganda says that most TVs will only need a set top box).  We were able to receive channel 10 and 7, and SBS if the weather was right (for those not familiar with Australian TV, that's about half the free to air channels).  We kept having to unplug the box to watch ABC and plug it back in when my husband wanted to watch sport on channel 10's digital channels.  That got quite annoying.

Finally we decided  to get a new digital TV, the smallest one we could find.  And we tried to give the big TV away.  The local Op-Shop didn't want it (getting very frustrated at this stage), so eventually we left it at the second-hand shop, for free.  I'm hoping that someone will get some use out of it, but its unlikely, as soon it will be pretty much useless.

All this waste is caused by greedy TV channels and short-term government planning.  Surely we are smarter than that!

Anyway, there is good news from all of this.  While I was looking for more information on this issue I found that the PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP BILL 2011 was recently passed in parliament.  Maybe it was on the news and I missed it, but I can't believe I didn't know about this!  This is VERY exciting!

For those of you who have no idea what I'm going on about, product stewardship means that the responsibility for reducing the environmental, health and safety impacts of manufactured goods and materials across the life cycle of a product is shared between the manufacturer and the consumer.  That means that manufacturers will be required to consider (and reduce) the environmental, health and safety impacts of their goods, including packaging and the actual components of the goods, for the entire lifecycle (production, use and disposal).

There was already a voluntary organisation call Product Stewardship Australia, but now that its legislated we should see massive progress in this area.  The regulations have not yet been issued, so we don't know which industries will be targeted and how strict the rules will be, but this is a great start.

In fact the government fact sheet says:
Televisions and computers will be the first products regulated under the framework, with householders able to drop off used computers and TVs for recycling free of charge. The television and computer national collection and recycling schemes are expected to operate from 2011.
It would have been even better if this had been implemented PRIOR to the digital TV changeover, as we would have been able to recycle our old TVs, instead of building mountains of them at the tip.  If I had known this was coming I would have held onto the TVs at home and recycled them as soon as it was available.

So the message here is. if you haven't got rid of your old TV (or monitors for that matter), WAIT!  We might actually be able to recycle them soon!


  1. This digital TV changeover is giving me the pips (polite way to say it) 2yrs ago the CRT TV started playing up had it fixed and gave it away so we had a 30cm CRT to watch the boys came to visit and 4 of us couldn't watch it so for Christmas they gave us a Digital TV we had fun tuning it in I had got used to fuzzavision on analog but the pixievision/freezeframe I can't get used to, we can't get some stations and like you it all depends on the weather.
    With the recycling side of it about time they did it not just TV and monitors but everything so much goes into land fill it's a disgusting waste.

  2. I bought a TiVo which gives me the digital signal on my old tv and the ability to record onto a hard disk, as well as online programme guides etc. I love it. I only need little rabbit ears aerial on top of my tv, I don't even have one on my roof, but as I don't watch commercial tv much I don't care if I can receive them or not.
    Love the Stewardship thing!

  3. Oh gosh, I hope NZ doesn't go digital too. I actually hate watching digital TV. It's too crisp - makes everything look b-grade or like a documentary. I like my movies a little bit fuzzy.

    Realise this was totally not the point of your article, but just had to have my rant.

    I wonder if NZ has introduced a similar bill to Oz. I know HP and Dell voluntarily initiated recycling programmes for computers and laptops a few years back, but I don't know if that's being enforced by law or not. I think I vaguely remember one of the Green Party members wrote a bill about it. Now I wonder if that was passed.


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