By Patrick Avenell

A compulsory Japanese Government recycling scheme is working to reduce the amount of TVs, laundry appliances, refrigerators and air conditioners ending up in landfill, with as much as 90 per cent of these end-of-life goods being used in new products.

With Japan having already switched off the analogue TV signal, the abandonment of obsolete TVs has grown from 560,000 cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in 2009 to 950,000 in 2010.

At the Panasonic Eco Technology Centre (PETEC) in Kato City, one hour’s drive south of Osaka, these TVs, along with other appliances, are crushed and separated into scrap metal, plastics and other waste, with these materials then on-sold for future use.

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Interestingly, this is not an act of environmental charity for Panasonic, with PETEC running at a profit, with revenues generated by a levy on recycling and income from the sale of parts. This profit is then reinvested into research and development, rather than being distributed to shareholders.

At a press conference at the facility today, PETEC president Kazayuki Tomita told that government intervention was necessary for these schemes to work, with fines charged against Japanese consumers who abandon their old TVs, rather than returning them to retailers for recycling.

The Government levy, which is paid by consumers when they return their products, is ¥1,800 (AUD $22) for a small TV and ¥2,300 (AUD $28) for a large TV. Tomita said the Japanese Government was in the process of lowering these fees as scale increases and to further stimulate recycling.

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PETEC only recycles CRTs and flat panel TVs, washing machines and dryers, refrigerators and air conditioners as these are the only product mandated by the Government for recycling. He said that it is not viable to recycle other appliances until it becomes compulsory, as consumers will not actively support such schemes until compelled to.

Currently employing 240 people, PETEC operates for 20 hours per day, recycling around 3,200 CRTs and around 50 flat panel TVs each day. Recycled products aren’t limited to Panasonic TVs, with other brands also welcome for a new lease on life.

When asked for advice for the Australian electronics industry, which is set to grapple with this issue when the analogue system is switched off in 2013, Tomita said collection of obsolete, broken and abandoned TVs was the biggest challenge to overcome.

Product Stewardship Australia (PSA), the industry collective charged with finding a workable solution, recently congratulated the Federal Government on the passing of a legislative act which will see all manufacturer and suppliers, rather than consumers directly, funding a take-back and recycling scheme.

“The first sectors to drive this new age of action on product take-back and recycling are the TV and ICT industries,” said a PSA spokesperson. “With funding and implementation to come from TV and computer manufacturers and suppliers, Australia is poised to benefit from an industry-led collection, recycling and community education initiative.”