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Dispose of your television properly

By Shomik Ghosh |
When your TV bites the dust, don't just toss it. Safeguard the planet and donate or recycle your set.
When the time comes to retire your current TV or an old set that you've been holding onto, give it a dignified send-off as a thanks for its years of service. Don't just trash your television — donate, sell, or recycle it.

Delay disposal

The two main reasons for saying goodbye to your TV are that it's broken or you want a set that's thinner, flatter, bigger, clearer, sharper, and with other fancy features. But fixing or revamping your television may extend its life, keep it out of the waste stream, and save you the typically hefty investment of springing for a new TV.
  • To repair or not to repair? If your TV breaks, consider repair before you decide to part ways, especially if it's covered by a standard or extended warranty. For those with expired warranties, try free tech support by phone that some manufacturers or retailers may offer. Also, try your TV manual's troubleshooting section or look for help online. Should your problem call for a professional, get in touch with the manufacturer to locate authorized repair shops and also consider independent repair shops. Consumer Reports advises that repairs are not worth it if they're going to cost more than half the price of a new TV."What if your TV breaks? More Than 93,000 TV Owners Tell You What to Expect" Consumer Reports March 2008: page 31
  • Consider an upgrade. For a TV that seems behind the times, you may be able to pump up your set to a righteous (or acceptable) level by adding some features or making adjustments instead of ponying up for a new set. GreenerChoices from Consumer Reports has advice on how to improve your TV's visual and audio performance as well as how to install surround sound so your bones will vibrate along with the action.

How to dispose of your television properly

  • Donate. Provided your set's still functioning well and the picture doesn't look like wavy gravy or pure fuzz, give it to a friend or relative or check to see if local community centers, churches, or nursing homes can use your TV. National groups such as Amvets, Salvation Army, and Goodwill accept working televisions. Some Habitat for Humanity stores called Habitat ReStores accept TVs. Call the nearest ReStore first to see if televisions are taken. Excess Access matches donations of business and household items, including TVs, with the wish-lists of nearby nonprofits that can pick up items or will accept drop-offs. It operates in the US, Canada, and beyond. Another option is Freecycle, a grassroots, nonprofit movement of more than 4,000 groups (membership is gratis) who give and get stuff for free in their own towns.
  • Sell that set. If your set works well and isn't too old, why not pass it along to someone else and earn a few bucks in the process? List it in your local classified ads or try craigslist.
  • Recycle your TV. Done-for electronics, including televisions, are combined into the category of electronic garbage known as e-waste. Because of toxic materials inside these products, most notably lead and mercury in TVs, landfilling them could cause these metals to leach into the ground and water or into the air if incinerated. More than a thousand communities now offer electronics collections as part of household hazardous waste collections or special events.[1] Check with your municipality to see if they offer this service. The following organizations provide info about where you can eCycle your television.
    • E-cycling Central This is the Electronic Industries Alliance's website that allows you to click on any state on the US map to find recyclers.
    • MyGreenElectronics To use this part of the Consumer Electronics Association's dedicated eco-site, enter your zip code to get contact info for the closest recyclers, including how far you'll have to travel and a map.
    • Earth 911 lists places to recycle all kinds of items, including TVs (search under electronics). Type in your zip code and learn whether each listing is a municipal or commercial drop off, a hazardous household waste collection, a special program, and resident restrictions.
  • Before you recycle… ask questions. Concerns have been raised about environmentally unsound recycling practices for e-waste and about the exportation of a high percentage of electronics (see Controversies below). The Electronics Industries Alliance has come up with a list of questions to ask potential recyclers to make sure your TV is being handled properly. The Basel Action Network has a list of eCyclers they call e-Stewards who have taken their Electronics Recycler's Pledge of True Stewardship that means in their words, "no dumping, no exports, no prisons".[2]
  • Send it back. Some electronics manufacturers now take back certain products for recycling at the end of their lives. With Sony's 2007 launch of a nationwide recycling take back program,[3] they became the first manufacturer to take back their old televisions.[4] Stay tuned to see if other TV manufacturers will follow suit.

Disposing of your television properly helps you go green because…

  • Recycling your TV reduces the amount of toxic substances that end up in landfills and enables the reuse of many resources, including heavy metals, thereby limiting the need to use virgin raw materials.
  • Donating your television extends its useful life and offers opportunity to organizations and individuals that can make use of secondhand equipment.

Footnotes

  1. US Environmental Protection Agency - eCycling: Basic Information
  2. The Basel Action Network - e-Stewards: The Pledge
  3. Sony - Sony Establishes First Nationwide Electronics Recycling Program With Waste Management's Recycle America
  4. Take Back My TV - Sony USA First To Sign Responsible Recycling Commitment
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