CES - Panasonic launches recycling business, new products

Panasonic described a new joint venture company for electronics recycling and also introduced new HD TVs and camcorders.

In addition to introducing a long list of HD TVs and camcorders, Panasonic on Sunday announced that it will participate in a new company designed to help collect and recycle such products when consumers are done with them.

Panasonic, Sharp and Toshiba have jointly formed a new company, Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Company (MRM), to provide services to other companies as well as governmental bodies that must comply with recycling mandates in the U.S.

The company has already started working in Minnesota, which recently enacted new rules for electronics recycling. MRM has collected about 750 tons of used products there.

The company plans to expand its programs to other states this year and next, including Connecticut, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

So far, MRM has set up collection and recycling agreements with Hitachi, JVC, Mitsubishi, Philips, Pioneer, Sanyo and others, Panasonic said.

Before figuring out their new recycling opportunities, consumers will be able to choose from a long list of new HD camcorders and flat panel TVs that Panasonic also introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Panasonic said that it plans to adopt its Viera brand name for all sizes of flat panel displays going forward.

The company expects that as consumers in the U.S. begin the countdown to the switch to digital broadcasting, they'll upgrade to new HD TVs. "In this final year before the digital transition, more and more people will approach this new way of living," said Shiro Kitajima, president of Panasonic's consumer electronics business.

Users will be able to control those TVs along with their related components through a single remote. Viera Link lets users easily do things like play back photos from an SD card that slides into Panasonic's plasma TVs.

Consumers will be able to store more on those SD cards, since Panasonic plans to launch later this month a new 32G-byte HD SD card, one of the largest available. The card will hold five and a half hours of full HD video, Panasonic said.

Users of the cards can plug them directly into a new Blu-Ray disk player that Panasonic is introducing at the conference and watch HD footage directly from the card.

Panasonic hinted at other announcements to come on Monday, when Panasonic's AVC Networks Company president delivers a keynote address.

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