Tracking Colleges, Toxic Dumpers and Trashed TVs

Electronics Recycling, Eco-Campuses and Corporate Accountability

Do you know of any televisions on the market that are built with future recycling in mind? Have any manufacturers invested in television recycling programs?

—Carolyn Leith, Seattle, WA


Although there are a few pilot programs across the country, television recycling is still emerging here in the U.S. Most manufacturers simply break down and separate glass picture tubes that have been discarded by repair centers and form them back into new tubes. Europe, however, whose innovative take-back laws previously applied only to product packaging, may soon be extending them to home electronic products. Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden all have such proposals in development. But if you’re looking for a place to drop off your dying set, Ted Wagner, environmental health and safety manager for Thomson Consumer Electronics, says, “The industry just isn’t there yet.”

David Isaacs of the Consumer Electronic Manufacturing Association (CEMA) points out that another important environmental issue with TVs is energy consumption. Through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program, consumers can now identify the most efficient models. Simply choosing a television bearing the Energy Star logo, which reduces energy use by 75 percent, can cut carbon dioxide emissions in the average household by 110 pounds per year (the equivalent of planting 11 trees).


2500 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201
Tel: (703) 907-7576

Energy Star TV/VCR Program
Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Division
401 M Street SW, 6202J
Washington, DC 20460
Tel: (888) STAR-YES

I’m trying to track down a web page listing companies that have been fined by the EPA. Have you seen a page like this?

—Mike Butler, Houston, TX

The EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) uses a variety of approaches to collect and track such information. There are as many as 16 different data systems that record the environmental behavior of industries, from pesticides to hazardous wastes to asbestos contractors. Under the Freedom of Information Act, anyone may request searches of these records.

In 1995, the OECA created the Sector Facility Indexing Project (SFIP), which brings together information from several of these databases. It profiles over 650 locations in five different industries—petroleum refining, iron and steel production, the smelting and refining of nonferrous metals, pulp manufacturing and automobile assembly. The SFIP provides basic inspection, compliance, chemical release and production data for each location. It also includes demographic data for the surrounding three miles, such as the racial mix, educational status and income level of residents. Armed with these tools, users can investigate a company’s compliance history, compare it to the performance of other companies in that industry, or analyze statewide data.

The Indexing Project can be found at, and Freedom of Information Act forms are available at


SFIP (2223A)
401 M Street SW
Washington, DC 20460
Tel: (617) 520-3015

I am an environmentalist and a senior in high school. What colleges and universities are known for being particularly “green”?

—Regina Christiansen, New York, NY

Like millions of other high school students right now, you’re probably wading through tall stacks of college brochures whose covers feature happy freshmen reading textbooks in the cool shade of the leafy campus quad. Luckily, there are a few good resources to help you figure out where the campus grass is really greener.

Miriam Weinstein in The Making a Difference College Guide (SageWorks Press, 800-218-4242) says to look beyond the glossy brochures. “Learn if [the school] has an ethic of service, concerns for peace and social justice, an environmental focus, and how these concerns are brought into the classroom and the world,” she adds. Another wise pick is Education for the Earth, a Peterson’s Guide to over 200 top college and university environmental studies programs (Peterson’s, 800-338-3282). And for those concerned about graduate school, The Guide to Graduate Environmental Programs (Island Press, 800-828-1302) reviews more than 160 programs across the country. All three books are under $20 at your local bookstore.

Elizabeth Hagen of the Sierra Student Coalition points out, though, that “students are probably your best resource.” Visit a campus. Ask questions. Are students active in environmental issues? Involved in the community? As for truly activist schools, the September/October 1998 issue of Mother Jones magazine places Duke University, James Madison University and the College of the Atlantic among the nation’s top 10.


Sierra Student Coalition
145 Waterman Street, 1st Floor
Providence, RI 02906
Tel: (401) 861-6012

Student Environmental Action Coalition
PO Box 31909
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Tel: (215) 222-4711