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‘Zero-TV’ Homes Spell Trouble for the Environment

By Lisa Marie Chirico,

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?

Tuning out

Dubbed “Zero TV” households by the Nielsen Co. since they don’t fit its usual definition of a TV home, their numbers are steadily increasing. This segment prefers to watch their favorite content on a computer (37 percent), or Internet TV (16 percent), followed by smartphones (8 percent), and tablets (6 percent). In 2007, there were three million Zero TV residences in the United States that unplugged.  Today, the number of Zero TV households in the U.S. has increased to more than five million. Satellite dishes, antennas, and cable TV providers are all things of the past for this segment. Nielsen’s study suggests that this new group may have left traditional TV for good.

Hit the road, Jack

As broadcasters scramble to create ways to adapt their programming to modern platforms, unwanted TV sets belonging to former cable subscribers are showing up in in landfills. The first wave of this began with the conversion from analog to digital TV. This prompted some consumers to purchase new flat-screen or plasma versions, and say goodbye to their cathode ray tube (CRT)-based sets. That move was, and continues to be, a blow to the environment, since the glass video display component of a CRT-based TV set contains as much as 27 percent lead according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition to lead, other heavy metals and toxic compounds lurk inside discarded TVs and run the danger of leaking into the ground. Read More