Green concerns as TV set replacement cycle speeds up

Research has shown that the speed at which TV sets are replaced across the globe is on the increase, raising environmental concerns over the way that products are disposed.

While the average rate of replacement for cathode ray tube television sets averaged at between 10-15 years, the quickening pace with which products are exhibiting new features means that consumers are often replacing sets at a greater speed.

Such swift developments mean that not only are CRT sets quickly being consigned to the bin in increasing numbers of countries, but the once cutting edge high definition sets are being superseded by full HD and 3D in developed nations, alongside varying screen types such as AMOLED or internet connectivity.

With further developments such as transparent screens in the pipeline it means that the trend is not likely to reverse anytime soon.  

As the shift towards digital broadcasting is seen all over the world, combined with more affordable flat panel TVs, the DisplaySearch findings show that the clamour for the latest set is not just seen in the more mature markets of richer nations.

While it might be thought that the greater incomes seen in families in Japan and the US would lead to a quicker replacement of sets, emerging markets such as India, Indonesia and China, despite being more recent in their uptake of TV sets, are replacing TVs that are on average half the age of those in more developed countries.

This is even the case for the mature-market Japan, although the country is offering its citizens incentives to upgrade to greener sets, another feature of TVs which manufacturers are keen to promote.

This has lead to what DisplaySearch analyst Paul Gagnon describes as “record numbers” of replacement covering, either from CRT to flat screen or with updated flatscreen technologies.

Of course this means that there is a greater number of television sets being sent to the scrap yard on a global scale, and though there are benefits for greater choice and availability for consumers worldwide, there are obvious implications for the environment.

According to Stephen Fuller, display expert at TCO, the organisation which awards certification to firms for compliance with environmental practices, this could mean greater problems with recycling product materials.

“This increase in the speed with which televisions are replaced is certainly a scary prospect as far as e-waste is concerned, as the TVs often inevitably end up in the rubbish heap,” he told TechEye.

With some countries having better recycling policies than others, Fuller believes it is up to the manufacturers themselves to ensure that TVs are not just being dumped after short periods of time.

“Manufacturers need to take more responsibility for increasing the life span of products,” says Fuller.

“More should be done to ensure that products that are released are more easily updatable, as with design times being reduced from over six month to around three to four, the market is moving too quickly at the moment.”